If you are fond of watching Five-Sided Puzzle Palace gyrations, then chances are you learned recently in the news that a sequester-level budget will not fund the Combat Rescue Helicopter, or CRH. Last year, the Air Force awarded a joint venture between Lockheed-Martin and Sikorsky that would replace the aging HH-60G fleet with 112 HH-60M models.
The Rescue community has not taken the news well. Elected officials are speaking out in the name of jobs, and a website was created to lobby grassroots support for the CRH. I don’t know if “taking the lead” of a guy forced to retire by the former SECDEF is the soundest strategy, but hey, any port in a storm I guess. At least you know the guy is connected.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, the Air Force is pretty much flying the blades right off the HH-60G. Helicopter maintenance is tricky enough, what with wings that move faster than the fuselage. Add all the battle damage sustained and gargantuan increase in flight hours associated with even just a few years of “all in” CASEVAC work in OEF, and you have a fleet in decline.
The best chance the Air Force had at replacement was all the way back in 2006, when CSAR-X was awarded to Boeing and its proposal utilizing the HH-47. But then, those silly rules got in the way, and that pesky recession hit, and finally SECDEF Gates hit the brakes on the whole thing in 2009, questioning the need for a CSAR-specific bird in the first place.