At the end of June, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky helicopter division signed a massive $3.8 billion Department of Defense contract for 257 UH-60 Black Hawk utility copters, destined for the U.S. Army and certain foreign military customers over the next five years. The contract, which included both the classic Black Hawk and its HH-60M MEDEVAC variant, includes opportunities for the Army to pick up an extra 103 aircraft, according to the Hartford Courant, a clause that would push the value of the deal as high as $5.2 billion through 2022.
The problem? The Army’s having some serious difficulty actually flying these iconic choppers.
Days before Lockheed Martin announced the new contract, a Pentagon inspector general audit revealed that the Army “did not provide adequate funding and training for H-60 pilots on the new equipment.” And if this problem goes unaddressed, the branch may face a shortage of up to 160 trained H-60 pilots by 2026.
Sadly, the Army has nobody to blame but itself for this problem. According to the DoD IG report, the shortfall in funding and training occurred “because Army officials did not agree which Army organization was responsible for funding and conducting H-60 new equipment training” — the various branch offices literally just passed the buck to one another. To correct the issue, the branch will require nearly $153 million more than currently budgeted for both training and new equipment for 1,390 Black Hawk pilots through 2035.
But training isn’t the only problem. The audit found that Army Aviation and Missile Command “did not effectively manage airframe condition evaluations for the UH-60 fleet,” with nearly 25% (460 out of 2,098) of the branch’s Black Hawk helicopters foregoing safety inspections and other mandatory evaluations between March 2016 and February 2017.
This problem extended down to the unit level, too. “Evaluators identified safety problems with some UH-60 helicopters that required the unit commander to ground (restrict flying) those helicopters,” the audit says. “However, the unit commander did not always allow evaluators to finish the evaluation of additional helicopters because he did not want to ground more helicopters if additional safety problems were identified.”
The Army wanted to have a fully modernized and upgraded fleet of 2,135 Black Hawks by 2035, according to the audit, but how the branch plans on squaring its new five-year billion-dollar contract with Sikorsky and its imminent pilot shortfall is unclear. Army officials did not immediately return requests for comment from Task & Purpose.
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJannaTwitter account. (Twitter/ZumarulJannah)
The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."