The US Army may delay some of its rotary-wing aircraft fleet modernisation programmes, but will not reduce or abandon the programmes in the wake of massive defence budget cuts, senior Army officials told the US Senators.
US Army Chief of Staff general Raymond Odierno told the Senate Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on Defence regarding the service's fiscal year 2013 budget request that the modernisation of the army's Apache helicopters has been lowered to 48 per year.
Odierno told lawmakers that performance upgrades of some CH-47 Chinook helicopters will also be reduced, alongside UH-60 Black Hawk modernisation, which will be delayed in all components, including the active force, Army Reserve and National Guard.
"The procurement of 72 UH-60M helicopters will be moved at least six years, outside the current Procurement Objective Memorandum or POM," Odierno added.
Odierno said upgrades to the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters have been funded, which may however, be changed in late 2012 when a decision is made on whether to procure the Armed Aerial Scout helicopter.
The service has not made any final decision on the C-23 Sherpa programme, as it still considers the aging aircraft may not meet its requirement for intra-theatre transport missions, Odierno added.
US Army Secretary John McHugh said the modernisation of the C-23 is expected to cost $800,000 to $1m per aircraft, further explaining the army had identified the C-27 Joint Cargo aircraft programme as a requirement for intra-theatre airlift.
Odierno said the army is currently working with the US Air Force (USAF) to use its C-130J Hercules aircraft to help accomplish its intra-theatre airlift operations.
The Army is moving ahead with development of the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), which will replace the Infantry Fighting Vehicle, McHugh said.
McHugh said that the modernisation programme currently underway is the integration of tactical networks, for which the army is testing equipment in a series of Network Integration Evaluations at White Sand Missile Range in New Mexico, US.
Image: US Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army general Raymond Odierno responds to a question from the Senate Appropriations defence subcommittee. Photo: US Army.