|Army Retires Legacy Aircraft|
Army Retires Legacy Aircraft
By Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) September 11, 2001 -- The Army will retire its AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters this October and UH-1 Hueys by October 2004, as part of a transformation plan to reduce its fleet from 4,500 to 3,500 aircraft.
More than 400 aircraft in the active component and 600 in the reserve components will be retired to equip the aviation force with a more modern fleet that is less expensive to maintain.
DoD photo by Lance Cpl. R.R. Bazinet, U.S. Marine Corps
The retired fleet will not be replaced one-for-one because a more modern fleet will yield a higher reliability rate, said Brig. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Force Management director for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans.
The Army's aircraft fleet by 2004 will consist of UH-60 Black Hawks, Apache helicopters, CH-47 Chinooks and reconnaissance aircraft, along with the procurement of Comanches beginning in 2006, Odierno said.
"In the past Cobras and Hueys -- Vietnam-era aircrafts -- have been difficult to maintain," Odierno said. "The older an aircraft gets the higher the operational sustainability costs are ... Now we can re-invest that money into recapitalizing our remaining fleet. We will gain efficiency and also some reliability and sustainability."
The aviation's recapitalization program includes upgrades, as well as the refurbishment of the aircraft to a "like new" condition. There is an expected monetary savings from the recapitalization program, and Odierno said that the specifics will be published in a detailed plan scheduled for release in December.
More than money will be re-invested with the retirement of the legacy aircraft. A pool of pilots and maintainers are also expected to increase readiness.
"Even though we will have a reduced number of aircraft, we will maintain the same amount of maintainers," Odierno said. "The hope there is that we will be robust enough to conduct 24-hour operations. The plan is to increase our operational readiness rate from 75 percent to a goal of 90 percent."
Another part of the transformation plan is to ease the transition into the aviation objective force, which is centered around the Comanche aircraft, Odierno said.
The Comanche has a streamlined airframe that will enable it to fly significantly faster than the larger Apache. The helicopter's primary role will be to seek out enemy forces and designate targets for the Apache attack helicopter at night, in adverse weather, and in battlefield obscurants, using advanced infrared sensors, according to a military aircraft web site.
Tactical commanders will be able to get more timely and accurate information in very challenging operational environments through the use of the Comanche, according to Army officials.
It was previously announced that the retirement of the Cobras and Hueys would take place in 2010. However, by accelerating the retirement, the Army can procure Comanches sooner. This means newer helicopters will be placed throughout the entire force, including the National Guard and Reserve, Odierno said.
Approximately 120 helicopters will be cascaded to the National Guard and 136 helicopters will go to the Army Reserve from the active component. Reserve components will be losing 600 aircraft, but they will be gaining more modern aircraft, Odierno said.
"As we continue to mitigate our operational tempo by use of our reserve components, it's necessary for them to have the modernized equipment needed," Odierno said. "This will enable the reserve component to better meet the missions that we are asking them to do today, which is to enhance the capability that we have in the active component."