30 More Years of Air Force Hueys | Defense Tech

That’s right, the Air Force is interested in keeping its nearly 40 year old fleet of UH-1N Hueys flying for another 30 years!

After years of efforts to replace the aging birds with a slightly bigger, newer chopper capably of ferrying security teams around the service’s vast ICBM fields, the Air Force seems to have abandoned hope of replacing the venerable Hueys and is now focused on making them last and fly faster, further and in any conditions.…for a really long time. Can you say budget cuts?

via 30 More Years of Air Force Hueys | Defense Tech.

The UH-1N Twin Huey is a nifty little helicopter. But it’s also an OLD helicopter. The AF Huey fleet is due for retirement.  The longer you keep a fleet in service, the more expensive they are to maintain. Further, with the Marines converting their -1N fleet to -1Y’s, the size of the fleet across DoD is shrinking. That means supporting them costs more, as there is a certain fairly fixed cost to maintaining a parts and training pipeline for every aircraft. Any economies of scale are lost.

The AF had wanted to buy UH-60s directly from the Army. The AF already operates H-60s. If they replaced their Hueys with H-60s, they could eliminate an entire training and maintenance pipeline. Further, the AF would get to share further economies of scale in parts (and possibly in training) because of the massive Army, Navy and international fleet of H-60 choppers.

My understanding is that some government watchdog group saw the AF plan to buy choppers without a competitive contract and pitched a hissy fit. Look, normally, I’m all for competition. But the DoD acquisition process is so cumbersome, any savings in purchase price would be so completely overwhelmed by the expense of running a competition that we taxpayers would be soaked badly.


9 thoughts on “30 More Years of Air Force Hueys | Defense Tech”

  1. There are days when I have a nearly overwhelming desire to head off into the woods and start teaching raccoons how to use tools.

  2. Does this sound like somebody is trying to “push a chain up a hill?” What is the lesson that we are missing? New technologies should be incremented slowly, stealth based systems are *not cheap*! How many stealth based remain on duty? Why?

    1. AF acquisitions are messed up and deserve some extra scrutiny at the moment, but this decision is dumb. Maybe a limited bidding process would be the answer? Force a choice between the UH-60 and UH-1Y (and maybe the UH-72s, if its acceptable for the mission). All are made in US factories, all are open production lines, and any of the three would make the program “joint”.

  3. The B-52 has been flying since the 1950s over 60 years old. Same with the C-130 and UH-1. They are machines. Maintain them and they will fly forever (kind of). Expensive to keep them going? Sure but compared with the H-60 maybe not so. Spare parts? Plenty in the bone yard. New technology is great and we must advance but you don’t need a Cadillac to taxi troops to their duty stations. BUT it is the Air Force and they are devious btards. Didn’t they just screw the Army on another aircraft deal the C-27J.

    1. The professional pubs are full of Letters-to-the-Editor about the C-27 boondoggle — and none of ’em reflect well on the AF. Also a lot of grumbling that the PM for the C-27 feathered his retirement nest a bit too well and too openly.

  4. Yeah! Sauce! (as the younge people say on the interwebs). Brad, I’m starting to think they need to have a pannel of lower enlisted from each branch. The contractors, auditors and think tanks should present their arguemnts to this pannel of soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen. If the pannel call BS, the contractors, auditor or think thanks should be banned from the DOD for five years.

    This would fix 70% of all problems in the DOD….

    1. Call it E5/6 and under, and include JO’s as well – O3 and under – I’d agree with you.

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