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USAF Still Working on Strategy for Replacing Helicopters

Mar. 27, 2012 - 07:32PM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
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The U.S. Air Force is still working to finalize an acquisition strategy for a helicopter program designed to replace aircraft damaged or destroyed in combat over the past decade.

Several options for the HH-60 Operational Loss Replacement (OLR) program, including trading new helicopters to the Army in exchange for older models, are on the table, according to Air Force officials.

“The modification strategy for the OLR aircraft has not been [finalized],” Maj. Gen. Robert Kane, director of global reach programs in the Air Force’s acquisition directorate, said after a House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing. “We are looking at all available options to do that, what it will look like, and that will be briefed up.”

The Air Force could end up swapping new UH-60Ms for existing Army UH-60L models to more rapidly replace rescue helicopters lost over a decade of combat.

“We’re going to get some more 60s and we’ve worked out a deal with the Army to take some of their Ls for some Ms that we put on contract,” Gen. Michael Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, said during a Feb. 24 speech at an Air Force Association conference in Orlando, Fla. “So we’ll get those in our hands sooner than we would have waited for the new airplanes and at least be able to extend our current capability.

An Air Combat Command spokeswoman said that option is still on the table, “but we do not have the final way-ahead at this time.”

“A lot of stuff is going to happen in the next couple of months,” Kane said. “I think by June-ish we should have some sort of decision on a modification.”

The OLR program is designed to bring the current fleet of Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopters up to 112 aircraft while the Air Force conducts a major recapitalization of the entire fleet of aircraft.

Less than 100 HH-60G remain in the Air Force inventory.

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