WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today called on the U.S. Air Force to prioritize the readiness of Montana’s military missions by ensuring the modernization of aircraft at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base.
During this morning’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing on the proposed FY 2017 U.S. Air Force budget, Daines pressed Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh about the Air Force’s plan to ensure top security for the transport of nuclear weapons by replacing Vietnam-era Huey helicopters.
“Malmstrom Air Force Base is currently using Vietnam-era Huey helicopters to provide security for the transport of our nuclear warheads,” Daines asked James. “These operations happen every week and I am concerned about the security they’re able to provide. What is the status of replacing the Vietnam-era Huey’s (UH1N) that provide security for nuclear transports at Malmstrom, for which you are requesting $18.3 million this year?”
“We have an eye towards speeding this up if we can. We will be trying to finalize that strategy in the next couple of months— like April, May time frame,” James responded. “One possibility that we’re looking at – we’re not finalized on this – but one possibility would be to address the most urgent piece of this requirement first, possibly even through a sole source situation, because that way we can acquire the helicopters more quickly. That’s one strategy that we’re looking at, but there’s a variety of other ones as well. Please know this is a top priority for us to get this worked out.”
In the hearing, Daines received a commitment from that the Air Force is on time to complete critical upgrades to the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) for the C-130Hs by the beginning of 2020.
When pressed for a commitment to an on-time delivery of the Minuteman III upgrades for Malmstrom’s ICBMs, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, James affirmed that nuclear modernization is a top priority for the Air Force, stating: “Nuclear is number one for us, we are certainly going keep these things on track.”
Daines has long worked to protect the ICBM mission at Malmstrom Air Force Base and move forward modernization of MANG’s C-130 fleet. He worked to secure language in the National Defense Authorization Act that provided much-needed support for Montana’s military missions including the authorization of funds for C-130 engine modification and for AMP Increments I and II.