Tester Leads Senate Coalition to Push Air Force on Huey Replacement Timeline

Senators Team Up to Increase Defense Capability and Provide Certainty to Airmen at Malmstrom, Minot, and Warren Air Force Base

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senators Jon Tester, Steve Daines, Mike Enzi, Heidi Heitkamp, John Hoeven, and Mike Lee and are pushing the U.S. Air Force to provide a detailed timeline on the replacement of Vietnam-era helicopters that are used to patrol the country’s ICBM sites.

The bipartisan group of Senators teamed up to raise their concerns directly with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and emphasized that recent actions from the Air Force and the Government Accountability Office have derailed the scheduled arrival of replacement helicopters at Malmstrom, Minot, and F.E. Warren Air Force Bases.

Tester, Daines, Enzi, Heitkamp, Hoeven, and Lee told Secretary Wilson that an updated timeline is needed to provide certainty and increase the defense capability of the ground component of the country’s nuclear triad.

“We have increasing concerns about the timeline for the program replacement of the Huey helicopter fleet,” the Senators wrote. “At a time when our nation is upgrading our nuclear arsenal due to the increased global threats and near peer adversaries, we cannot afford to continue delaying additional capabilities to secure our ICBM fields.”

The bipartisan group of Senators have previously expressed concerns to the Air Force that the decades old Huey helicopter fleet lacks the capability to fully secure the country’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites and proposed a replacement plan to use an existing Army contract to replace the fleet with better equipped helicopters. The Air Force ultimately opposed that replacement plan and has yet to provide an updated framework or reward a purchasing contract during the current fiscal year.

With more than $288 million already set aside to replace the Huey helicopter fleet, the Senators are demanding more transparency from the Air Force.

“We need a clear understanding of the Air Forces’ ability to execute the replacement program,” the Senators added.

Tester originally secured the funding for the replacement helicopters in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and the Defense Appropriations bill. The replacement helicopter fleet was originally expected to arrive by 2019.

Helicopters are a critical component of the Air Force’s land-based ICBM mission and are used to secure and transport airmen between launching sites.

The Senators’ letter to Secretary Wilson is available HERE.