Great Falls, Mont. – A UH-1N helicopter assigned to the 40th Helicopter Squadron delivers a Tactical Response Force team to Launch Facility I-04, near the Big Belt Mountains, May 19. The primary mission of the 40th HS is to provide missile field security, which can include quickly bringing specially trained airmen from the 341st Security Forces Group to an asset that is in danger. (U.S. Air Force photo/ John Turner)
ORLANDO: The nation doesn’t need to rush out and buy the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform, designed to rush troops to nuclear sites or to evacuate senior lawmakers in event of a strike against the capital, because security at missile and other facilities has improved. And there’s not much money around to buy it with.
That’s the bottom line from the general whose Global Strike Command had pushed hard to buy CVLSP, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski.
Some of my colleagues have been reporting that the Air Force is considering buying UH-1Ns from the Marines to fulfill this mission. Now Kowalski did tell us that the Air Force is rebuilding three UH-INs to replace three Air Force Hueys that have been lost. Then, he said that if the helos work well and if it doesn’t cost too much to refit them for Air Force duty and if the Air Force has money then they might buy some more of them.
But Kowalski’s main point during the briefing was that security at ICBM sites has improved considerably and the pressing need for CVLSP just isn’t as pressing as it once was. Oh, and then there’s that budget thing we all keep hearing about.
“It’s just a matter of, can we take risk for a few more years. Yes, probably. Well, I guess we can because there’s no money,” said the refreshingly blunt-spoken general.
On top of that, Kowalski said that the current Huey helo fleet is, “frankly one of the most reliable platforms in the Air Force in terms of its mission capability rates.” It may not have the range, capacity and speed that the CVLSP would bring to the table, but it flies when you need it to.
Add to this the fact that the budget contained virtually no money for CVLSP — doubtless saddening the folks at Lockheed, Sikorsky and AgustaWestland, all of whom had eyed the program — and you seem to see a sky full of tough old Hueys.
Expect howls or protest from Republicans about this. They think Obama is vulnerable on nuclear security issues. And doing nothing to improve the helicopter fleet responsble in part for keeping nuclear weapons secure as they are moved around is just the kind of policy a red meat Republican might want to use to beat Democrats with.