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Speedy future rotorcraft that will field in the 2030s are already cutting into the U.S. Army aviation budget, sucking funding for production of legacy aircraft like the Apache and Black Hawk to pay for prototypes of the helicopters that could replace them.
The shift from buying or remanufacturing legacy helicopters to investing in Future Vertical Lift technologies like the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and Future Attack Recon Aircraft (FARA) is expected to become more pronounced as those new aircraft enter production in coming years, said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain.
Overall procurement funding in the Army’s budget request for fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1, is $21.3 billion, down $2.8 billion from the current enacted budget, according to budget documents released May 28. Nearly half that amount — $1.2 billion — was cut from procurement of the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Chamberlain told reporters on May 28 during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“Our request is consistent with the Army aviation modernization strategy,” Chamberlain said. “We are adjusting production rate for the Black Hawk and for the Apache helicopters in order to continue development of the Future Vertical Lift aircraft.”
But procurement quantities for all rotorcraft types in the Army fleet are down in the coming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Army has requested only 24 UH-60M Black Hawks in 2022, down from 42 in the current fiscal year. Where the service bought 50 remanufactured AH-64E Apache helicopters in the current fiscal year, it plans to buy 30 next year. It will buy no new Apaches at all instead of the 69 it bought this year and no new-build CH-47F Block I Chinooks in 2022, according to Army budget documents.