Murphy's Law: November 1, 2000

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The US Army is finding it hard to stick to its aviation modernization plan. The retirement of the AH-1s at the end of this year is only the first of a series of problems. The last 100 or so are serving in National Guard units. The Army decided to retire them when it found that none of the theater commanders would accept the older attack birds; all insisted on the newer Apache in their war plans. With the Cobras gone, there are not enough Apaches to field all of the units, so each unit will get only 80% of its authorized Apaches until more can be built. Retirement of the Cobras will leave Guard units without aircraft to keep pilots qualified to fly. The Army was going to give the Guard 60 OH-58A/C Kiowa scouts to keep the attack pilots in the air, but had to divert these to Fort Rucker when the fleet-wide problems with the UH-1 Huey (which has been grounded for safety concerns more than once) caused a backlog in pilot training. The Army plans to send 30 of these aircraft to Guard units early next year, meaning that Fort Rucker will continue to fall behind and Guard units will have barely enough aircraft to keep their pilots qualified to fly (and not enough to keep them proficient for combat). The huge fleet of UH-1 Hueys is to retire in 2004, and this is going to cause major problems. Units which now know they can get a Huey to support their training or operations will have trouble getting one of the BlackHawks that replace them. The problem is that due to budget cuts and limits, the Army cannot replace every Huey with a BlackHawk. A little accounting sleight-of-hand declared that two BlackHawks can do the work of three Hueys, which is arguably true but the two aircraft cannot be in three places at the same time. The Army needs 240 to 330 more BlackHawks that it is scheduled to buy, and there is no money for them in a tight budget.--Stephen V Cole

 


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