Keep the AH-64 Apache in the National Guard
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I am writing to voice my strong opposition to the US Army?s plan to mothball the entire fleet of Kiowa helicopters; approximately 898 aircraft. These helicopters currently fulfill the roles of scout, armed reconnaissance and training for the US Army. The Army is proposing to fulfill the armed recon and training missions with AH-64 Apaches and UH-72 Lakotas seized from the National Guard. The total number of Apaches being seized from the Guard is approximately 170 (24 in seven states) in exchange for approximately 160 UH-60 Black Hawks. However, the Army has not mentioned any planned replacement for the 30 Kiowa aircraft the Guard would lose, or whether it's going to replace the Lakota aircraft it takes away to support the pilot training at Ft. Rucker. The Guard stands to lose upwards of 150 total air frames and the jobs that go along with them.
This comes at a time when the nation has been reeling from a prolonged economic downturn. Cancelling the Kiowa program and taking aircraft out of the Guard will mean potential job losses in thousands for the men and women who fix, fly and support these helicopters. Job losses would also impact local communities that rely on the business generated by Guard Aviation facilities; restaurants, grocery stores, retail outlets plus the loss of payroll and sales tax revenues and devalued housing are all potential effects of this BRAC-type decision. This could easily have a trillion dollar impact. Local news outlets are already reporting that National Guard members could be out of a job if the Army cuts the Apache helicopter fleet.
Mothballing the Kiowa fleet is puzzling. The Army recently convinced Congress to fund the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program (CASUP) which modernizes the Kiowa and extend its service life thru 2025. The cost of this upgrade was billed at $4 million per helicopter in 2012, or $1.5 billion. This is a bargain compared with the alternatives. The Army gets a ?new? proven aircraft without wasting time and money on development, testing, fielding, or proving combat worthiness. Now the Army is willing to scuttle the entire Kiowa fleet in favor of Apaches? It doesn't make any fiscal or economic sense. How can the Army say that a modernized Kiowa fleet was worth investing $1.5 billion in 2012, but that it?s no longer worth it in 2014?
It is my understanding that the US Army?s proposal to cancel the OH-58 program has already received endorsement from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and that final approval depends on Congress and the President. I strongly urge you to oppose this plan and demand that the Army explain why they feel it?s acceptable to throw away billions of dollars of taxpayer money while at the same time putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy, and local economies at risk of financial hardship.
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