Since the Air Force has decided to use the normal open competition acquisition process for replacing the UH-1N Hueys flown at Malmstrom Air Force Base and other intercontinental ballistic missile bases, Sen. Steve Daines has continued to ask the military to activate the National Guard to provide security with its Black Hawk helicopters.
Daines told the Tribune that he again suggested the idea to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James during their Wednesday meeting and that she seemed receptive to the idea.
The Army National Guard in Helena has Black Hawk helicopters, which some lawmakers have pushed to be the Huey replacement.
On Thursday, the Air Force sent an official response to the Tribune about the possibility of activating Montana National Guard troops to augment security at Malmstrom and the missile field.
According to the Air Force, the Joint Staff is working with U.S. Strategic Command and the service branches to identify force support solutions.
“As a part of that effort, the full range of Department of Defense assets and capabilities is being examined, including those of the Army National Guard,” according to the AF statement.
On Thursday, Daines and Zinke introduced legislation to require the DoD to tell Congress how the Air Force secures ICBMs with the known deficiencies of the Hueys.
Daines’ bill directs the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell Congress within five days of the bill’s passage how they will secure nuclear missiles and implement the necessary mitigation with additional resources within 60 days.
Zinke introduced a similar bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that aims requires the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to approve the requests for forces to meet security requirements at land-based nuclear forces.
“This legislation requires a prompt security solution to the immediate problem with outside resources,” Daines said. “I will continue to push the Defense Department to replace the UH-1N as fast as possible so that our nation’s most powerful weapons are fully secure.”
“There are helicopters that are readily available and will save the taxpayer money, yet leave it to the bureaucrats at the DoD to choose the costliest, inefficient route,” Zinke said. “This amendment will try to address the security needs of the missile fields while ensuring that the acquisition process is done in an expeditious matter.”
In October 2014, Air Force Global Strike Command told the Tribune that there’s a need to replace the aging UH-1N fleet with aircraft that provide increased range, airspeed and lift.
It’s not required that the Air Force transition to a single helicopter platform, but officials said there are potential savings in training, logistics and personnel costs if the service moves to a single type of helicopter.
The Air Force Vice Chief of Staff in July 2014 approved the system requirements to replace the UH-1N and courses of action were under review until the Air Force announced its decision on Wednesday.