August 27, 2005

The Best We Have To Offer

From the Raleigh News & Observer .

CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION -- Earlier this month, a pair of hulking transport planes touched down and disgorged the newest additions to the Marine Corps helicopter fleet: three MH-53E Sea Dragons that had been sitting in an aircraft "boneyard" in the Arizona desert for about a decade...Restoring the helicopters, which have been out of production since 1999, is an extraordinary step; but the Marines have little choice: They're running out of big choppers...At least part of the solution to the Super Stallion shortage, Milliman said, could involve the Cherry Point depot and the 14 other rebuildable helicopters sitting in the Arizona boneyard, formally called the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center. The boneyard is a combination junkyard and storage lot for military and Coast Guard aircraft that can be brought back into U.S. service or sold to allies.
There are 4,300 aircraft there dating to 1957, and most are suitable only for parts, said Terry Vanden-Heuvel, a spokeswoman there.

I can see the ads now.

Republicans spent billions on tax breaks for tycoons and heiresses...

While our troops made due with Hillbilly Armor...

and equipment sent to a desert junk yard 10 years ago.

What I find fascinating about this is JUST what an egregious example it is of Republican Abuse of Power. There are so many examples to pick from, lack of armor, lack of body armor, etc.  But, there is something special about this one.  It tickles the fancy.  The Republicans buy big fricking SUVs for the private contractors, lose billions of dollars to Halliburton, give no-bid contracts that cost billions more than competitive bids, and then come up short when it is time to support the troops.  What a load of hoo-ey.

The article goes on to give some reasons for the shortage that is starting and which will continue to grow worse in 2010.

It will probably be at least 2015 before the replacement choppers are deployed, he said. But the service life of a Super Stallion is 6,120 hours in operation, and current estimates are that the Corps will have to start parking about 15 copters a year in 2010.

That leaves five years in which the Marines' fleet of heavy lift helicopters will dwindle before replacements start coming into service...Asked whether the helicopter supply would have lasted through that gap without the wars, he said: "That is a reasonable supposition"...Aboulafia, the analyst, said the wars are not the only cause of the chopper shortage. He also blames the long-troubled V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor development program, the costs of which have soared.

That aircraft -- which can take off like a helicopter, then rotate its engines to go forward like an airplane -- has been in development since 1983. Its setbacks include two crashes in 2000 that killed 23 Marines and a scandal over falsified maintenance records. The program has repeatedly seemed close to being canceled, but now appears on track for full production.

The Osprey is designated a "medium-lift" aircraft, meaning it carries fewer troops and less cargo than the Super Stallion. It is planned as the replacement for the smaller CH-46 chopper.

The Marines have spent $13.4 billion on the Osprey, said Ward Carroll, a spokesman for the program. They have spent or obligated $111.8 million for the replacement for the Super Stallion, Milliman said.

"The Marines have put all their lift eggs in one basket, the V-22," Aboulafia said

So, while this is the Marine's poor planning coming home to roost, it is also irresponsible for our government NOT to get them new helicopters up and running NOW.  No one even knows how these old copters will function, if at all.  Nor, how long.  The Republicans love to spend money on defense research and things like Star Wars, but when it comes to things that will actually make a difference on the ground, to the troops, they come up short.

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