WASHINGTON — As the US Air Force gears up to modernize its legacy UH-1N Huey helicopter fleet, the service is planning an industry day later this month to explore the path ahead for the 40-year-old platform.

The upcoming sessions are meant to educate potential vendors about improvements the Air Force is looking to make to the existing fleet to reduce long-running capability gaps. Unlike modern aircraft, the Huey is analog, which means it lacks the digital displays most current platforms take for granted. The Huey has also been criticized for its lack of modern technology, such as navigational tools needed for flight during adverse weather conditions.

Following the industry day, which will take place Aug. 26 and 27, the Air Force will release a capabilities request for information on potential solutions and sources to provide aircraft that meet program requirements, according to an Aug. 10 announcement posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website. The service is planning to procure up to 72 replacement aircraft overall.

The announcement comes on the heels of a service-led review of the previous Common Vertical Lift Support Platform program, which was cut in the Pentagon's fiscal 2013 budget proposal due to budget reductions. The Air Force is looking to the CVLSP analysis of alternatives for guidance on the way ahead for the Huey, according to spokeswoman Maj. Melissa Milner.

The Air Force plans to develop a Huey replacement acquisition strategy and stand up a program office in fiscal 2016, Milner said.

She said the service will conduct a milestone decision and award a contract in fiscal 2017.

Although the Air Force has not yet selected a definitive solution or acquisition strategy to replace the Huey, Milner said potential options include modification of the existing fleet, a sole-source award for a new aircraft or an open competition for a new platform.

News outlets reported last year that the Air Force would move forward with a recapitalization strategy that involves replacing the outdated Hueys with retired Army UH-60A Black Hawk utility helicopters. However, that information is incorrect, Milner said.

"The [Air Force] is currently evaluating the acquisition alternatives and has not yet approved an acquisition strategy" for the Hueys, Milner said.

Email: lseligman@defensenews.com

Twitter: @laraseligman

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