Thursday, March 23, 2017

USMC has no plans to contain CH-53K cost growth. What happens if we can't afford it?

via The Hill
The head of the Marine Corps said Wednesday the service is working with Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky to reduce the price of the CH-53K helicopter.

The heavy-lift helicopter is on track to surpass the F-35 as the Pentagon’s costliest aircraft.

“Obviously we’re concerned about the cost point,” Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller told reporters following remarks he made at a conference sponsored by Credit Suisse and McAleese and Associates.

“We’re focused right now on the performance. But the price is an issue. We’ll continue to work with the vendor to work that down obviously.”

The CH-53K — which is still in development — will replace the Marine Corps’s aging CH-53E helicopters. The CH-53K was initially expected to cost $95 million per unit.

But the program came under scrutiny earlier this month from Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee's subpanel on air and land forces, who pointed out that the cost is expected to grow 22 percent, to $122 million per helicopter.

“The Marine Corps intends to buy 200 of this aircraft, so that cost growth, multiplied times 200, is a heck of a lot of money,” Tsongas said at a March 10 hearing. “Even if there is no additional cost growth, it seems worth pointing out that $122 million per aircraft in 2006 dollars exceeds the current cost of an F-35A aircraft for the Air Force by a significant margin.”

Neller said the Marines are early in the CH-53K program and potential foreign buyers could help bring the cost down.
Why is the answer to explosive cost always to HOPE that foreign buyers could help bring the price down?

Moving on.

How many times have I said that aviation is out of control?  How many times have I shouted to the rooftops that the Marine Corps is attempting to become the seagoing 101st?

Forgetting all that.  The USMC is trying to buy 3 fabulously expensive airplanes...the F-35, the CH-53K and more MV-22.  They're also considering buying a tilt rotor UAV for armed escort and to provide fleet defense.  Last but not least they're also buying AH-1Z and UH-1Y whose mission set does not seem to mesh with the distributed operations concept/deep strike/long distance raids that they've talked so glowingly about.

Marine Corps procurement IS a trainwreck.  Not by budget but by choices of leadership.

Want to know why the Marine Corps is having vendors build 16 ACVs and then testing them for a year?  So that they can have an excuse for fucking the Ground Combat Element one more time.

The sad thing?

You won't hear anyone from the Ground Combat community bitching about it.  You won't hear one Marine Corps focused publication take up the issue.  Uncommon valor was once a common virtue.  Today?  Quivering in the corner while you see people wrecking the Corps with half baked ideas/procurement policy is the norm. 

Let me leave you with this.  What if the SecDef imposes fiscal responsibility at the behest of a grumbling Trump?  What if the Pentagon leadership decides we just can't afford it?  Do we buy CH-47's?  S-92's?  What happens to heavy lift in the Marine Corps in support of the GCE?

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