A couple months ago, things weren’t looking so great for Air Force Rescue. An aging fleet of aircraft, without a replacement or modernization plan, it would have been only a matter of time until the HH-60G was simply un-flyable. Things look better these days. Early this month, the Air Force reversed a previous decision to delay the CRH funding, announcing it would sign the CRH contract NLT June of 2014, with a beginning contract execution in FY15. BLUF: The CRH is funded.

Don’t get me wrong – this is good news. But, it’s probably worth pointing out a few items to keep things level-headed:

1) The CRH is only funded for 20 aircraft. 20 aircraft will not replace the fleet of 112 HH-60Gs currently authorized to the Air Force, Reserves, and National Guard. Hell, it won’t even replace the 99 of 112 that are still flying. As I read it, 20 helos will simply buy time for the fleet, by replacing the airframes with the highest flight volume on them. It briefs well, but the reality is that things might get loud when it comes to actually delivering these helos to the units.

2) The CRH, while an advanced UH-60, is still simply that. Details are a little murky, but my sources indicate the most significant advances will be in the cockpit and the engine performance levels. It’s still a teeny tiny cabin for the PJs, but then again, I guess the Husky wasn’t much better, and that bad boy was the original “Pedro.”

3) If there is one word that will pull the lead out of any DOD policy wonk’s pencil, it’s this: “Sequestration.” So, bully for FY15, but sequestration in FY16 could still pump the brakes on CRH. The feeling I get from the Pentagon is that everyone is really hoping that our elected officials will come to their senses and get rid of sequestration. My response? Don’t worry, we can always cut entire mission sets instead of upping Tricare fees. Which leads me to my final point…

4) The A-10 is still getting the axe. So, it’s Goodbye A-10, Hello F-35. Heinie Alderholt has got to be parked on a keg somewhere upstairs, simply laughing his ass off at this point. I can only assume that the F-35 will replace the A-10 as RESCORT in the traditional CSAR Task Force structure, and what that will look like will be anyone’s guess, because to my knowledge, it simply hasn’t been done. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll never go deep or long to grab a pilot beyond the FLOT. There’s nothing going on in Eastern Europe these days, right comrade?

If I had to put the CRH news on a beer celebration scale, I’d call it a solo run to the after-work happy hour for two domestics. Keep your eye on the CRH, folks – it’s turning into a bellwether for future Air Force procurement and strategy.

Photo Courtesy of Air Force Times

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