The U.S. Army operates the largest fleet of military helicopters in the world, but during the Obama years it did not get enough money to modernize a force in which all of the frontline rotorcraft first saw action during the Cold War. The last Obama defense request would have provided only eight hours’ worth of federal spending in the current fiscal year for new Army aircraft procurement, meaning mainly helicopters. Fortunately, Congress has stepped in to provide additional funding with the compromise budget agreement reached this week. Specifically, the Army will get $5.2 billion to buy new aircraft, rather than the $3.6 billion that had been proposed. This will enable the service to continue multiyear contracts upgrading the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters — its three core combat airframes — while also developing a more efficient engine for medium-weight choppers. However, even with the congressional adds, the Army still doesn’t have enough money to keep its existing rotorcraft fleet up to date while pushing forward with development of next-generation helicopters. More money will be needed in future years to stay ahead of potential adversaries. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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