U.S. SENATE —Senator Steve Daines today pressed Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter on the timeline to upgrade Vietnam-era UH-1N helicopters to provide much-needed security for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) stationed at Malmstron Air Force Base (AFB).
During this morning’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing on the proposed FY 2017 U.S. Department of Defense budget, Daines worked to secure a timeline for new equipment to protect America’s nuclear missiles.
“Given the increased risk for terrorism here at home, I am concerned at how low on the priority list this appears to be,” Daines stated. “The Air Force still has not decided how they’re going to replace these helicopters – but either direction they go is going to take over a year. It’s unacceptable.”
“Secretary Carter, what steps is the Department taking to move this timeline forward, and when can we expect to see helicopters that actually meet the security requirements,” Danies pressed Carter.
“We need a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent as far into the future as I can see. The ICBMs are a critical part of that,” Carter responded. “For their safety, a replacement of the UH-1N which are now very old helicopters that convey the security forces around the silo fields that you very well know, definitely need to replaced and be done urgently. I’m monitoring that closely.”
Under Daines’ questioning, Carter confirmed that he would look into the National Guard augmenting the Vietnam-era UH-1N.
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Last month, Daines led eight Senators in calling on the Air Force to expedite their decision on the course of action to replace Vietnam–era UH-1N helicopters that provide security for our nuclear weapons.
In February, 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.