U.S. Air Force Tries Again for Combat Rescue Helicopter

 - March 23, 2012, 4:10 PM
The U.S. Air Force once again has initiated the acquisition process to replace its Sikorsky HH-60G combat search-and-rescue helicopters. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force has released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the combat rescue helicopter (CRH) program, a successor to the ill-fated CSAR-X competition to replace the service’s Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters.

The CRH will be a scaled-back version of the $15 billion CSAR-X program. The Pentagon settled on Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook in 2006 for the program but ultimately cancelled the order in 2009 after successive protests, amended proposals and delays. The platform sought for the CRH, earlier known as the HH-60 Recapitalization Program, “will be an existing production helicopter with modifications using existing mature technology with only limited integration of existing subsystems as required,” the Air Force said in a request for information (RFI) last November for an associated training system. A previous RFI was issued last August seeking comment on draft system requirements for the aircraft.

In a posture statement submitted to Congress last month, the Air Force said its Fiscal Year 2013 budget request includes $184 million for the helicopter operational loss replacement (OLR) and CRH programs. Research, development, test and evaluation funding for the CRH was reprogrammed to support the acquisition of two test aircraft. The service said the program “remains on track” to replace the HH-60G through an open competition, with initial operational capability planned for Fiscal Year 2018. As of last October, it reported an inventory of 67 of the twin-engine Black Hawk derivatives operated by the active Air Force, 17 by the Air National Guard and 15 by the Reserve.