WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) announced that they are urging the Air Force to transfer legacy HH-60G PAVE Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopters to the N.M. Air National Guard when the Air Force fields the new HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The leadership of the 58th Special Operations Wing (SOW) at Kirtland has told the delegation that they anticipate that the transition from the PAVE Hawk to the Combat Rescue Helicopter will cause a shortage of flight instructors. And, because the wing may soon train in up to four different helicopters at once, it could face challenges finding enough hangar space and classrooms in which to train combat rescue airmen.
In a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the lawmakers wrote that moving the PAVE Hawk helicopters to the 150th Special Operations Wing – under the N.M. National Guard “Tacos” – would help the 58th SOW address the shortage of manpower and hangar and training space, while also providing the Tacos with aircraft of its own to operate.
The Tacos have operated in association with the 58th SOW for several years but have not had a flying mission of their own since 2010. The lawmakers reminded Wilson that, during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, she agreed that she would like to see the Tacos back in a flying mission. Additionally, the lawmakers wrote, the transfer would satisfy one of the Air National Guard’s goals of ensuring that each state has a fully equipped flying squadron.
“We are fully confident that the New Mexico Air National Guard can provide quality, timely, and cost-effective solutions with its available personnel and infrastructure,” the lawmakers wrote.“As you look at the feasibility of this transfer, you will find the 150th SOW has the infrastructure to support the HH-60G and, with a minimal increase in authorized personnel, can support training and maintenance independent of the airframe. As you know, the New Mexico Air National Guard has a long legacy of service to our nation…. Transferring the HH-60G mission to the NMANG will serve as a force multiplier and continue the important mission of training combat rescue airman. We strongly urge you to consider assigning the HH-60G mission to the NMANG.”
A copy of the letter can be found here. The text is below:
November 28th, 2017
The Honorable Dr. Heather A. Wilson
Secretary of the Air Force
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20330
Dear Secretary Wilson,
We write to express our strong support for the New Mexico Air National Guard to receive Legacy HH-60G aircraft that the Air Force is planning to divest, as it fields the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH). The 58th Special Operations Wing (SOW) at Kirtland Air Force Base is currently scheduled to receive the first CRH in Fiscal Year 2020 and is expected to deliver the legacy HH-60Gs to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.
The 58th SOW has presented two challenges to our offices regarding the transition to the CRH - manpower and hangar and training space. We are fully confident that the New Mexico Air National Guard can provide quality, timely, and cost-effective solutions with its available personnel and infrastructure.
-Manpower. The 58th SOW anticipates a shortage of manpower as initial instructors are transitioned to the CRH while their mission requirements remain to produce aircrew in the legacy HH-60G PAVE Hawk. They have indicated it will require attention and a coordinated effort across the Air Force and they will work with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Air Combat Command to ensure there is adequate manpower in place not only to train in legacy systems but also to spin up the CRH.
-Hangar and Training Space. The squadron tasked with providing graduate level helicopter training will be heavily tasked as they may train in up to four different helicopters (CRH, legacy training for the HH-60G, UH-1N training and potentially its replacement, the UH-X program). The 58th SOW has also identified the hangar and associated building where the CRH training will take place is not of adequate size to accomplish this future growth and will not be adequate to support the new requirements. Furthermore, office and classroom space on the flight line where the new aircrew members will be trained is undersized and will need renovations and additions to ensure a successful and seamless transition for the 58th SOW.
Transferring HH-60Gs to the 150th SOW will satisfy one of Air National Guard’s Capstone Principles of ensuring each state’s Air National Guard has a unit equipped wing and flying squadron. It will also guarantee there is not a disruption in pilot production, which is critical given the Air Force’s pilot shortage while also alleviating the stress on the 58th SOW to train in both the legacy and new helicopter airframes. The President’s FY18 Basing Plan indicates the CRH conversion will take approximately 10 years with the Air National Guard being the last to receive the CRH. As you look at the feasibility of this transfer, you will find the 150th SOW has the infrastructure to support the HH-60G and, with a minimal increase in authorized personnel, can support training and maintenance of the airframe.
As you know, the New Mexico Air National Guard has a long legacy of service to our nation, and you have previously agreed during testimony before the U.S. Senate that you would also like to see the Tacos in a flying mission again. Transferring the HH-60G mission to the NMANG will serve as a force multiplier and continue the important mission of training combat rescue airman. We strongly urge you to consider assigning the HH-60G mission to the NMANG.
Thank you for your consideration and service.