The Combat Rescue Helicopter and the Sequester

Prior to sequestered budgets, the Air Force struggled to recapitalize its fleet of HH-60G rescue helicopters. Now, with the sequester, the service may have to defer yet again the contract award planned for early next year to field new rescue helicopters. “It’s a program that we must have at some point, but we’re talking about lots of things that we must have,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 13 when discussing the fate of the Combat Rescue Helicopter acquisition program. He added that there would be no modernization programs outside of the Air Force’s top three acquisition priorities (i.e., KC-46 tanker, F-35 strike fighter, new bomber) until the service knows what its budget topline will be. “It’s not an option of awarding [CRH] this [fiscal] year or killing it. . . . It’s an issue of prioritizing and re-phasing,” said Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning at the same briefing. Some 70 House members last week urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to preserve funding for CRH. “We believe this mission is too important to allow arbitrary budget pressures to thwart providing these lifesaving aircraft,” states their Dec. 12 missive. (Fanning-Welsh transcript)