The House Armed Service Committee (HASC) is seeking to restore, with war funding, some of the deep cuts the Army plans to make to helicopter procurement to pay for near-term combat readiness.

In its fiscal year 2017 budget request, the Army cut $2.3 billion from aviation procurement and modernization, representing the lion’s share of reductions to pay for Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s top priority of being ready to fight a major war at a moment’s notice.

The Obama administration’s 2017 budget request proposes cutting 24 Lockheed Martin [LMT] UH-60 Black Hawks, nine Boeing [BA] AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and no new purchases of the Airbus UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter.

UH-60 Black Hawk Photo: Sikorsky
UH-60 Black Hawk
Photo: Sikorsky

Overall shortfalls, as identified by service chiefs and combatant commanders in the field, include 36 Black Hawks, five Apaches and advanced procurement funding for 64 more and 72 Lakotas.

HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry’s (R-Texas) mark of the NDAA would restore 24 UH-60s and add an additional 12 Black Hawks. It also would restore five of the Apaches lost in the original budget submission and purchase 17 UH-72s.

Funding for the extra helicopter purchases were taken from the Army’s overseas contingency operations (OCO), or war funding. Instead of a $78 million request for AH-64 Apache remanufacturing in OCO, HASC would grant $268 million, an addition of $190 million to cover the unfunded requirement.

The committee also added $72.9 million for unfunded advanced procurement of AH-64E helicopters. Another $440 million in OCO funding would go toward purchasing UH-60M Black Hawks and $110 million would buy the added Lakotas.

Orders for remanufactured AH-64E Apaches fell from 64 in the current fiscal year to 48 in fiscal 2017. The Black Hawk took the biggest hit, dropping to 36 airframes ordered in the 2017 budget from 107 purchased in the current fiscal year.

The Army’s fiscal 2017 budget request includes a total $1 billion for procurement of 52 remanufactured E-model Apache Block 3 aircraft, four of which are funded through the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

The budget request also includes $923 million for 21 UH-60M for the active component and 15 HH-60M helicopters, 11 of which are for the National Guard. That is down from $1.7 billion enacted funding for H-60 procurement in 2016.

HASC’s markup aligns more closely with the recommendations made by the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) than with the Army’s self-prescribed Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI), which would transfer all Apache attack helicopters to active component Army units.

Among other of the 63 recommendations made by the NCFA, HASC supported the commission’s plan to retain four Apache attack helicopter battalions in the National Guard and an 11th combat aviation brigade in the regular Army.

“The committee expects the Army to plan and program accordingly based on available resources across the Future Years Defense Program,” the markup reads. “The committee is also supportive of a permanent combat aviation brigade in the Republic of Korea.”