US Air Force, April 25, 2011 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials announced their strategy here April 25 to recapitalize the Air Force's helicopter fleet, which is critical to nuclear weapon security response, continuity of government, and combat search and rescue.
The Air Force secretary and chief of staff have directed that the service proceed with full and open competition for both the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform program and the HH-60 recapitalization program.
These two programs will hold separate competitions using their respective capability development documents approved by the joint requirements oversight council to meet the warfighter requirements.
"The Air Force ultimately benefits from competition and allows industry to fully play in these acquisition programs," said Maj. Gen. Randal D. Fullhart, the global reach programs capability director. "We anticipate, based on market research and industry response to requests for information, that a derivative of helicopters already in production will be able to meet warfighter requirements."
The CVLSP program fills identified capability gaps while replacing the current Air Force UH-1N Huey fleet, in which service officials noted deficiencies in carrying capacity, speed, range, endurance and survivability, General Fullhart said.
The fleet will consist of 93 aircraft spread among Air Force Global Strike Command, the Air Force District of Washington and other major commands, he added.
"For CVLSP we're anticipating a summer 2011 draft request for proposal release and the final RFP early fall," General Fullhart said. "We're proceeding toward an initial operating capability for common vertical lift support platform program in 2015."
HH-60 recapitalization, officials said, is the Air Force's program to replace the 112 aging HH-60G Pave Hawks. The HH-60G is used primarily to conduct combat search and rescue, but is also used for emergency aero-medical evacuation, homeland security, humanitarian relief, international aid, non-combatant evacuation operations and special operations forces support.
Air Force leaders noted that the current fleet is heavily tasked, with the Operation Enduring Freedom flying tempo being twice the standard utilization rate, and aircraft availability projected to be less than 50 percent by 2015.
The anticipated request for proposal release for this program will be in 2012, General Fullhart said.
While a long-term replacement remains critical, General Fullhart points out that 13 Pave Hawks have been lost to combat, training and civil rescue missions, and 54 of the remaining 99 HH-60G aircraft are currently undergoing repairs to correct major structural cracks.
In response, service officials have implemented a short-term solution, the operational loss replacement program, to maintain current CSAR capability.
Operational loss replacement, General Fullhart said, replaces lost aircraft and addresses the immediate need to maintain the operational availability of legacy HH-60Gs.
Originally, losses were not replaced due to the anticipation of CSAR-X, a program that was since canceled, he said.
This long- and short-term approach is the best way to deliver the required capabilities to the warfighter, General Fullhart explained.
The CVLSP and HH-60 recapitalization will help ensure that the service sustains the warfighter's capabilities across the full spectrum of military operations, according to senior leaders.
"As in the KC-X competition, the ability of offerors to meet requirements at best value to the taxpayer will be invaluable," General Fullhart said.