akscott60 Posted December 6, 2013 Report Share Posted December 6, 2013 In an additional effort to minimize the diversity of its fleet and take out aging aircraft, the Army is also proposing to divest its TH-67 training helicopters at Ft. Rucker, AL, according to the officials. To replace the TH-67s, the Army plans to use some of its LUH-72A Lakota helicopters, which are already a part of the service's inventory, for pilot training. While some of the LUH-72As needed for training will be pulled from the Guard, others will be pulled from the active component. The Guard will keep its security and support battalion Lakotas it uses along the Southwest border, according to the officials. Bell Helicopter's Miller questioned the proposed divestment, asking, "Why would you get rid of something that is already in place and already been paid for?" Bell also manufactures the TH-67 helicopters. He added that "we've got no complaints about its ability to meet the mission at Ft. Rucker." Transfer costs should be considered in deciding whether to swap TH-67s and Lakotas, Miller said. "You have to buy new simulators, you are going to have to move those Lakotas, you are going to have to renegotiate maintenance contracts at Ft. Rucker. That is a huge bill," he said. Additionally, the Lakota has twin engines, while the TH-67 has a single engine. Training on a single-engine aircraft is easier for a new pilot; they are also less-costly to operate. "You don't want to over-complicate your initial instruction, nor do you want to overpay for it," Miller said. However, the Army officials said the service would have to pay a heftier bill to keep the TH-67s flying because Bell doesn't make the model anymore. "We lose a couple every year, we already have less than we need for our training fleet," and Ft. Rucker has had to bring in OH-58s to complete the fleet, an official said. Also, the service must cannibalize parts to keep the current helicopters running. Additionally, the TH-67s will require a life-extension program that the Army can't afford, the officials said. If the service wanted to buy something new -- from Bell or another company -- costs would be prohibitive, they added. Using Lakotas as trainers would also give the Army an incentive to revamp how it trains pilots. "We've been running flight school on the same paradigm since the era of Vietnam," an official said, adding, "cut to 40 years later, the entire fleet" -- aside from Kiowas -- "is a dual-engine, glass-cockpit aircraft." Training on a single-engine, rigid-rotor, small helicopter makes less sense as time goes on, they argued The Army, in looking around the globe at other first-world countries with large militaries, has learned that German forces were very pleased with their Eurocopter EC-135s -- which uses the same airframe as the Lakota. While the LUH is not designed well for "crash-and-bang" exercises performed during training, the Army has also learned that Australia has completely phased out that training practice because it is used for pilots who fly single-engine aircraft, not twin-engine helicopters in which a pilot is less likely to deal with a complete stall. By divesting two fleets of aircraft, the Army is looking to simplify the fleet as whole, one official noted. For example, when developing a new capability for a helicopter such as aircraft survivability equipment, the Army would only have to pay to make sure the new equipment can fit and function on four different types of helicopters, which would bring down integration costs. The service also wants to reduce its eight variants of Black Hawk helicopters to just two, according to the officials, leaving the two most modern versions -- Lima models with digitized cockpits, and Mike models. The Army is hoping to embark on the digital L-model effort in FY-14. "We will be a smaller, leaner force, but we will keep all of the modern equipment," an official emphasized. "The motto here is buy nothing new because we are poor, but keep the best of what you've got." Additionally, divesting fleets would not mean firing key operators, like those who work on Kiowa fleets, the officials stressed. "Those pilots and maintainers are highly valued" and could be trained to fly different helicopters, one noted. Because the Army is looking to divest two aircraft fleets, it logically follows that combat aviation brigade numbers will have to shrink with the fleet. However, the officials could not pinpoint how deeply the service is prepared to reduce its CAB numbers in the active and reserve components, though they acknowledged the total numbers would have to go down. The numbers are dependent on the Army's total force structure, which has yet to be decided. 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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