HH-60 Pave Hawk in Afghanistan

UPDATED: Adds Secretary James’ Comments On CRH

PENTAGON: In a dramatic last-minute budget decision, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today approved the long-delayed purchase of a Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH).

The announcement was slipped into today’s Air Force budget briefing by Maj. Gen. James Martin, Air Force budget director. Martin said he was told about James’ decision as he walked down the hall to the Pentagon briefing room to unveil the Air Force budget. No money has been allocated to the program, an Air Force spokeswoman told us after Martin’s briefing here, so the funding will have to come from somewhere else in the service’s $138 billion budget request. “A contract will be awarded this year,” he said.

UPDATE (12:07 pm, March 5) “Moving forward with the CRH contract award protects a good competitive price and effectively uses the $334 million Congress appropriated for the program,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James was quoted in an official Air Force news story late yesterday.

The contract should be signed by the end of June 2014. The program must complete a Milestone B review including independent cost assessments, the story noted. And the sold bidder, Sikorsky, “must also agree to extend its pricing through June.” UPDATE ends.

Breaking Defense readers will remember the ill-fated $10 billion CSAR-X program, which Boeing won only to lose when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed it, questioning whether it should be built and bought by a single service. When the program was against put out for bid, only Sikorsky placed a bid for the 112 helicopter program, with other companies saying they just couldn’t make money on the it. Sikorsky plans to replace the aging Pave Hawk helicopters.

Some 74 members of Congress wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in December, urging him to fund CRH in the 2015 budget. He and James appear to have agreed.

In other news, the Air Force has finally decided to begin the 350-plane T-X trainer program, Martin announced, with about $600 million in the Future Years Defense Plan, beginning in 2017. BAE Systems will be very happy, as they believe they have a leg up in this $11 billion competition.

Another new start was announced, the JSTARS recapitalization program. The Air Force plans to do something similar to the Navy’s P-8 program, wanting the contractor using a modified commercial jet to fly the complex net of sensors, computers and networks that will be the new JSTARS. Martin said there is $100 million in FY 2015 with $2.4 billion spread over the FYDP.

And the ill-fated NPOESS weather satellite program finally morphed into yet another Air Force new start, the alternative weather satellite. Martin said there is half a billion for the program in the budget over the next five years.

For the rest of the Air Force budget, you can click here and see what’s in play.


  • James Hedman

    Why in hell does the Air Force even need their own rescue helicopter? I can see why an interceptor is needed so junk the F-35 and re-institute production of F-22s. It is just the sort of weapon we need for continental defense of North America. In the almost zero possibility of a hostile troop landing the Strike Eagle is more than adequate.

    We could save tons of money just getting rid of the Air Force as a separate service (which was a bad idea to begin with) and putting it back under the aegis of the Department of the Army. We’ll save a bunch of money eliminating the overhead of its redundant bureaucracy.

    Strategic bombers are obsolete and the Air Force has always paid insufficient attention to CAS. Junking them will release money for continued production of the A-10.

    While we’re at it let’s eliminate the “Defense” Department and revert the Army to the Department of War too. It will be a lot more honest since whenever we give them enough money they go out and start useless ones.

    The important thing is to think big when it comes to deep cuts in military spending.

    • PolicyWonk

      First of all, the A-10 has been out of production for decades – the US isn’t building any new ones (the A-10’s we have pretty much all been recently upgraded).

      Regardless, the bottom line is that the US acquisition system guarantees by far the lousiest deal for the defense dollar spent in the western world. The entire system should be extirpated and replaced with one similar to that used by the British, which would remove redundancies, design changes being made all the way through construction, and congressional meddling.

      Failing that, the entire acquisition system should be put under receivership in return for increased funding. One would think that our national security would be a concern to our elected representatives, but obviously it isn’t much of a concern because the continuation of corporate welfare programs and the status quo (by virtue of their actions) remains the priority.

      As then-POTUS Eisenhower once said (to paraphrase), “if I told my generals they’d get an extra star by saving money, I’d be trampled before finishing the sentence as they fought to get out the door to rid the service branches of redundancies and waste…”

      And BTW – the Army doesn’t go and start useless wars. The vast, and I do mean vast majority of professionals in the service spend their careers training for what they hope never happens. The useless wars are started by civilian leadership.

      • James Hedman

        Thanks for the correction about the Warthog. As to whether or not the brass hats are warmongers or not I’ll have to continue to disagree. While their may be some overt militarists such as the infamous General Curtis LeMay there is an inherent push to use all these murderous toys just by the inertia imparted to the process by building them in the first place. And don’t tell me that the President is never urged to use them by his military advisors. It’s just not true (and I realize he is often dissuaded from military action too.)

        The entire dynamic of the military/congressional/industrial complex leads us into fantasies of world hegemony as conflict after conflict has proved out. The proliferation of command structures for places we should not concern ourselves with shows this. We need an Africom like we need a hole in our head and the Central Command has given us two lost wars in the last decade.

        The US should concern itself with defending the territorial integrity of North America and that’s it. If the Japs, Chinese, or Europeans need Middle East oil then let them be responsible for propping up those dictatorships and building navies to protect their tankers. It’s not our concern.

        It is something of a truism that when fighting a war we necessarily become more like our enemies. That’s what happened in WWII and it has got to stop.

  • frank

    So in 48 hrs CRH went from “nice to have” to an imperative by the new SecAF. Guess the Conn delegation and the weight of the sole source DoD supplier L/M were too much to bear. A program the USAF didnt even make a prioirity is now going to raid other prioirtiy programs simply to appease. Wonder how many of the 600 jobs Sikorsky said it was eliminating last week will be saved? Come on journalists, do your jobs and find the real story in this and quit just sitting back and reporting what you are being fed to report. The taxpayers are being forcefed a multi-billion dollar program to replace helicopters the USAF doesnt even want, with essentially the same helicopter and nobody questions it?

  • jc

    If we want to save money on the DoD start with Special Ops. We should make all the Special Ops into one new service.The Operators in the army and USMC should be combined into one service.Give them ships to operate off and a small airforce of their own. They can train together and have their own budjet, Al the other services are spending large amounts of money on special projects that get that each service duplicate.

    • http://www.breakingdefense.com/ Colin Clark

      The service chiefs would never agree to this as it would dramatically erode their monopoly on training and equipping forces.

    • Billy Bob

      I don’t see how BAE has a leg up on USAF n btrainer acquisition program. I thought it was between M346vsFA50. By the way, M346 crashed for the third time in U.A.E. a month ago. It seems to be a Russian designed death trap.

  • Billy Bob

    I don’t see how the BAE has a leg up on USA trainer acquisition program. It is an outdated platform. From what I know it is between M346 and FA50. By the way, third M346 crashed in UAE on Feb 27 2014. It seems to be a Russian designed death trap.

    • df

      BAE’s T-II Hawk updated for USAF T-X will have an F-35 style cockpit before long…which is the real training need out there. Now its all about fly-compute targets to kill-get home quick. Aviate-navigate-communicate is learned in the turboprop. USAF will never dog-fight an F-22 with a hoard of cheap Chinese fighters…its all about BLOS kills and striking heavily defended enemy targets so the Marines and Army can wonder where all the enemy is (dead, mostly)