(WBNG Binghamton) Senator Schumer asked U.S. Defense Secrertary to continue plans on replacing combat rescue helicopters.
According to a press release:
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to adhere to existing plans to purchase a new fleet of 112 new Combat Rescue Helicopters from the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin Owego Team. The future of the CRH mission has been subject to an internal Air Force restructuring debate, and recent reports note that the Dept. of Defense (DoD) could cancel their planned procurement of these helicopters. Schumer urged Hagel to abandon any such plan that would mean using an outdated fleet of aircraft for critical search and rescue missions, and that could negatively impact Lockheed Martin in Owego. In August of this year, Schumer visited LM Owego and pushed to preserve planned defense contracts between the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin team and the U.S. Military in order to defend the 2,700 employees in Owego and promote the potential for expansion. Schumer stated in his call that this CRH program must be an ongoing focus to protect our troops.
“Our brave troops deserve the best aircraft available to carry out search and rescue missions, and Lockheed Martin workers in Owego are the best in the business to make them. That’s why I’ve gone to the top of the chain, to Defense Secretary Hagel, to urge that he stick with plans to replace the Air Force’s outdated combat rescue helicopter fleet, which would be made by the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team and support about 250 jobs in Owego. I stood in Owego this August and pledged to fight for this pending contract, and I’ve now made loud and clear to Hagel that the plan for new Combat Rescue Helicopters should go forward.”
Schumer said that the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin Combat Rescue Helicopters are the best aircraft for the fleet. The Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin team is currently in-line to receive the contract. The existing fleet of HH-60s is old and needs replacing, and Schumer highlighted that other alternatives, like the CV-22s, were ill-equipped for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) missions. Schumer noted that Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has called a potential change away from the planned contracts “misguided” and “unacceptable from both an operational and budgetary standpoint.” Previous DoD studies have dismissed the CV-22 as unsuitable for the rescue mission due to its excessive downwash while hovering. Schumer previously spoke to Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning to ensure the Air Force continues with the current plan of procuring a dedicated fleet of new CSAR helicopters, and that this fleet would be made by Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin. Schumer today raised his concerns to the Defense Secretary. Lockheed Martin has estimated that as long as the company executes this planned contract, it could create or maintain approximately 250 jobs.
Schumer has been a long-time advocate for LM Owego. In 2005, it was proposed that a new Marine One fleet be built, but in 2009, the contract intended for Lockheed Martin Owego was brought into question. Schumer worked with leaders in the Administration and appropriators to mitigate damage and negative job impact by negotiating a compromise that provided $100 million in funding to Lockheed Martin for mission systems and other technology work associated with the VH-71 program. As a result, 250 engineer jobs were saved at the Lockheed Martin Owego location, which helped minimize job losses.