Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall wants the Army to present him with its business case for retiring Bell TH-67 and OH-58 training helicopters and replacing them with Airbus Lakotas, like the one pictured here. (Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Walker/US Army)
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer has asked the US Army to justify its proposal to retire two types of Bell-made training helicopters and replace them with 100 new Airbus UH-72 Lakota helicopters.
“I’ve asked the Army to show me their business case for that,” Kendall said Tuesday after a speech at an AFCEA-sponsored conference.
The proposal to retire the Bell TH-67 Creek and OH-58 Kiowa training helicopters is part of the broad-ranging Army Aviation Restructure Plan, which was put forth in the Pentagon’s 2015 budget request. The plan would also shift National Guard Boeing AH-64 Apaches into the active duty in exchange for Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks.
The idea has drawn criticism, particularly from helicopter makers Bell and AgustaWestland.
Bell officials say that switching to the twin-engine Lakota from the single-engine TH-67 would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The TH-67 Creek is a better value for initial entry training then the UH-72 Lakota,” Mike Miller, director of military business development for Bell Helicopter, said in a statement provided by a company spokesman.
“At an average fleet age of 16 years, these aircraft have a great deal of life left in them,” he said. “All the TH-67 simulators, courseware, maintenance support, instructor pilot support is currently in place and meeting the Army’s requirements today.”
The Army argues that budget cuts are driving its aviation restructure and that by training pilots using one helicopter will produce substantial savings.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Fort Rucker in July, where Army officials briefed him on the restructure plan and gave him a tour of all three helicopters.■