I saw this article about the aging infrastructure that supports the U.S.’s land based nuclear missiles and some how it doesn’t seem to add up. Assuming the facts are true (and that may be dubious) in this article, does the proposed (and actual) spending make sense:
One example is the Huey helicopter fleet, which escorts road convoys that move Minuteman missiles, warheads and other key components. It also moves armed security forces into the missile fields in an emergency, even though it’s too slow, too small, too vulnerable to attack and cannot fly sufficient distances.
The seven Hueys flown daily at Minot were built in 1969. The yearly cost of keeping them running has more than doubled over the past four years, according to Air Force statistics — from $12.9 million in 2010 to $27.8 million last year.
Let’s just start with the maintenance cost. Assuming this really is only seven helicopters the 2013 maintenance cost was $3.97 million per helicopter. Sheesh, what does a brand new helicopter cost? Furthermore in 2010 they’d already spent $1.8 million each. What are they “maintaining” for that price? Let’s assume that in 2011 and 2012 they spent somewhere in between, so let’s say: $1.8, $2.5, $3.2, $4.0, or $11.5 million in last four years! Can’t they replace the helicopter for less than that?
I tried to find the cost of a new helicopter and without a great deal of searching found a range from about $0.5M to $65M (a very large 40 person helicopter) with a more typical price of around $3.0. Used Hueys seem to go for around $0.65 million (hey military, why not buy a bunch of used ones and cannibalize parts from them, or use the old used ones for some of your missions). It appears you can buy a new Huey equivalent for about $20M. But does the Air Force really need a military grade helicopter or just something to do their claimed missions: escorts road convoys that move Minuteman missiles, warheads and other key components. It also moves armed security forces into the missile fields in an emergency.
And why are they flying their existing Hueys daily? Does the airforce really move warheads and other key components every day? Do they have emergency that requires security forces every day. Even with some training can’t they fly less than every day?
And do they really need a replacement that is not, as it is claimed the Huey is, it’s too slow, too small, too vulnerable to attack and cannot fly sufficient distances. Have the distances increased since the missile silos were built – don’t think so. Are they really planning for their helicopters to be attacked on U.S. soil (oh yeah, Red Dawn, the commies are coming to North Dakota and Montana).
Again, assuming the article’s facts are correct, does this just sound like silly military spending, wanting new helicopters to do a mission the old ones were doing but somehow today the mission’s requirements are greater? For what they’re spending on maintenance can’t they get replacements?
Something doesn’t add up here and I think this is just the typical military mentality of excess spending. Some branch of the Air Force is feeling neglected (envious of the silly F22’s and F35’s) so they want in on some of that spending. Or some defense contractor looking for a big appropriation?
As long as the missiles are there let’s maintain the force, but can’t we do it for less? We make other parts of the government (say the VA, National Park Service) spend less so I suspect the Air Force could modernize but do it a lot cheaper.