Despite the doubt expressed last year by the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer on the need for a new dedicated fleet of combat search and rescue helicopters, there has been no similar pushback from the warfighting community questioning the need for the new helicopters, the Air Force’s top uniformed officer told defense reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “Not withstanding the acquisition executive’s perspective on this, it is a standing requirement, which has yet to be disputed by those who have an appropriate role in formulating those requirements,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. He said the need for the new CSAR-X helicopter is “not just” an Air Force requirement, but also “a joint requirement” that was fully vetted through the Pentagon’s joint requirements oversight council. Last fall, Pentagon acquisition czar John Young questioned the need for the new CSAR-X fleet “for the occasional rescue mission,” saying there are “a lot of assets” that could be pressed into service for rescues if there is enough time for planning. When asked to respond to those comments, Schwartz said he sees “no excess capacity for helicopters” across the US military to apply to CSAR when needed. The demand for CSAR and all vertical-lift assets, for that matter, is high in the “irregular warfare circumstances” of the ongoing war on terror, he said. “The bottom line,” Schwartz said, is that the Air Force intends to proceed with the CSAR-X recapitalization program, which is currently in the source-selection phase and, barring last-minute changes by the Obama Administration, is expected to yield a winner in the spring or summer.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.