Battleland

Marines’ $22.2 Billion Mistake?

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Sikorsky

The Marines' CH-53K (in case you were wondering, the "CH" doesn't stand for "cheap").

It used to be the Marines were the most penurious of the military services:

— The Army replaced its AH-1 Cobras with AH-64 Apaches, but the Marines kept flying Cobras.

— The Army replaced its UH-1 Hueys with UH-60 Black Hawks, but the Marines kept flying Hueys (and buying them, as we noted last week).

— The Navy replaced its F-18C/D jets with F-18E/F models, while the Marines kept flying F-18C/Ds.

Heck, Battleland can recall writing a story – probably shortly after vulcanization was perfected — quoting Marines boasting that their service was the only one that used retreaded tires on their vehicles.

But things changed a generation or so back. Doing things cheaply no longer seemed a part of the Marine ethos:

— First came the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor troop carrier that costs about $120 million a copy.

— Then came the F-35B, the costliest version of the costliest airplane in history, starting at $160 million a pop.

The Marines wanted both of these – capable of taking off and landing from their cramped amphibious ships – because without them they’d have to rely on the Navy, or, even worse, the Air Force, for air support (so much for the joint operations mandated under Goldplated-Plugged-Nickels).

But that “requirement” doesn’t explain the Defense Department inspector general’s report released Monday into the Marines’ CH-53K Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter.

The report is labeled “For Official Use Only” – screw you, taxpayers – but the IG did generously provide the folks who pay for it a synopsis of what it believes is wrong with the program (Battleland took note of its cost last Friday).

The Marines, you see, recently boosted the number of CH-53Ks it wants to buy from 156 to 200.

In the IG’s first look at the Sikorsky CH-53K, it concluded:

The Marine Corps procurement quantity for CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopters in the DoD FY 2013 President’s Budget was overstated by up to 44 aircraft.

The Marine Corps could not support the need to procure a total of 200 aircraft because Headquarters Marine Corps Department of Aviation officials:

— did not follow the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System Instruction and obtain Joint Requirements Oversight Council approval for the increase;

— did not have requirement studies prepared to determine a procurement quantity in consideration of program affordability;

— incorrectly relied on a 2008 memorandum from the Deputy Commandant for Aviation directing the increase of the procurement quantity to 200 aircraft, without support;

— incorrectly used the 2010-2011 Force Structure Review’s war-gaming scenarios as justification for the quantity increase; and

— did not justify or appropriately consider the impact of the Marine Corps personnel reductions effect on Heavy Lift quantity requirements.

As a result, the Marine Corps risks spending $22.2 billion in procurement and operating and support funding for 44 additional aircraft that have not been justified and may not be needed to support future Marine Corps mission requirements.

The Pentagon‘s most recent price list for its weapons estimates the Marines will spend $28.5 billion on the 200 CH-53Ks, or about $140 million apiece; the IG’s total of $22.2 billion for 44 (not price-)choppers — about $500 million each– includes lifetime operating costs, as well.

Twenty-two billion dollars?

Can’t anybody here play this game?

76 comments
BrandonRossFontaine
BrandonRossFontaine

Air force spends billions of dollars on F-22s that have never and will never see combat, no one bats an eye. Marines get a little choosey everyone looses their minds!

geoff.keber
geoff.keber

I read an article in Airforces Monthly that said the AH-1Z is only marginally cheaper than the AH-64 and the UH-1Y is more expensive than the UH-60.  If that is true, then that would change the whole tone of this article...

DanielJ.Dulnikowski
DanielJ.Dulnikowski

I wonder how many people here who are critical of the this Marine Corps program support the Obama Phone Program, and the EBTF cards, and Expanded Medicaid, etc. etc. 

CarlosDecourcyLascoutx
CarlosDecourcyLascoutx

...well, they've always been spoiled, this just puts the icing on the cake. nice going at Tora Bora by the way.

USMC
USMC

@CarlosDecourcyLascoutx Spoiled my **s! The Marines have historically done more with less. This piece of equipment is needed to support operations that both the army and chair force are afraid too. Before you open your c*m dumpster and thumb holder know the facts and history of the Marine Corps.

ChristopherAlexander
ChristopherAlexander

@USMC @CarlosDecourcyLascoutx Actually, its so the Marine corp can catch up to the Army. We already have plenty of big helicopters and stuff. But that is cool, I just hope you guys don't break this stuff before you get to use it.

OldDevilDog
OldDevilDog

The CH-53 concept is not new, these aircraft have been involved in nearly every major Marine action since the 1960's.  It is what it is WORK HORSE think 18 wheeler of the sky, these aircraft do wear out.  Someone mentioned using H-60's, let the Marines decide the needs,  Call Air Force pilot Scott Ogrady and ask him what he thinks of the mighty 53, if you had been one of the 60 fleeing civilians I stuffed in the back during an evacuation near Mount Pinatubo eruption  or off the sands of Somalia in the last days you would be thankful we can load it up like an 18 wheeler.  Marines don't want fancy but we owe it to the young Marines on the ground that if they need to be picked up anywhere anyplace, it can be done.

The motto You call we haul, Semper Fi

fastfood41
fastfood41

Maybe, in light of Benghazi, the Marine Corps could use some more helicopters? If our fearless leaders are going to spread my fellow Marines all over hell and breakfast, we could use some tools to keep ourselves safe.. Just sayin'

rademamj
rademamj

Don't pick on the Marines....at least they will provide some value by using these helicopters.  And think of all the Americans at work providing for these systems....happily they are not made in China.

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

I worked on CH-53's from 1986-1990. Great helicopter, and fast as anything built. That helicopter can lift anything. I see no problem updating the fleet of older birds. Our squadron had to resort to cannibalizing parts off of other helicopters in squadron due to part shortages all the time. 

BrutlStrudl
BrutlStrudl

After Viet Nam, Ana American Colonel told a Vietnamese counterpart, "You never beat us on the battlefield. The Vietnamese replied, " It doesn't matter".

HarveyEmbry
HarveyEmbry

screw those black hawks.  i take a huey over them.

arvay
arvay

Interesting. It loks a lot like a Russian helicopter. Industrial espionage??

MikadoCat
MikadoCat

Don't all those missing stinger missiles from Libya change the whole air transport paradigm?

Whats the point of buying a lot of air transport if it isn't safe to use in any existing combat area?

Zamnit
Zamnit

Nice. Really got these babies on the cheap!

enquiries
enquiries

This is not a mistake, nor is it a sign of extravagance.  The marines decided that they needed 200, but didn't bother with all of the paperwork.

Does the US Marines spend too much? Of course, as do all US services.  Other countries spend only 1/10th of what the USA does. Spending ridiculous amounts of borrowed money (the US budget deficit being almost the same as total defence spending) does not create security. What it does do is gradually bankrupt the US. 

There is also a problem with overly costly defence programmes. It was once calculated that soon the entire US defence budget would be required to buy just one aircraft.  That day is fast approaching.  Few countries have defence budgets big enough to buy a single F35!

Tyco200
Tyco200

F-18 can't even turn in a dogfight with most aircraft fielded by Russia or China. It's a failure in itself. Tomcat could out turn the F-18 at low, and high speeds... And was a dogfighter.

seanreisk
seanreisk

I was a combat engineer in the Army.  A Marine once told me, "The Army is good for people who want to serve their country.  The Marine Corps is good for people who think they might want to try the pure, extreme, undiluted military experience."  The more I think about it, the more I think that's true, and the more I think by itself that's a good justification for both military branches.  

There are key differences between the Army and the Marine Corps.  The Navy is in charge of controlling the seas and coast lines, and the Marine Corps is sort of their 'Army'.  It's more efficient for the Navy to have their own land combat units that travel within and are maintained within their own fleets, and military professionalism aside, if the Army had to supply those units there would always be a pissing match about who was in charge.  If you don't believe that ... I can't help you.  

Being part of the Navy has given the Marine Corps a different outlook on military operations.  The Army has heavy infantry, light infantry, airborne, air cavalry, armor, armored cavalry, artillery, combat engineers, air defense artillery, on and on and on, and each of these unit types may be tasked to fight independent of any other units.  In the Marine Corps every marine is a rifleman, and the artillery, armor and air are all in support of infantry operations.  That's a very key difference.  

To the person who questioned why the Marines don't use the UH-60 (the Blackhawk) that the Army uses, the reasons are simple and practical.  First, you have to understand why the Marine Corps still uses the Huey and the Cobra instead of the Blackhawk and the Apache.  When the Marine Corps deploys they have to be self-sufficient.  The Marine Corps has a much larger tooth-to-tail than the Army does; that is, they have a lot more combat troops supported by fewer support troops, and they have a smaller supply line.  The Marine Corps uses the Huey and the Cobra because they are, essentially, the same aircraft.  Same engine, same airframe, if you study the history of air operations in Vietnam you'll find out that the Cobra was a Huey that had the cabin stripped away.  For the Marine Corps, this means less parts.  The Army uses the Blackhawk as their medium transport helicopter; the Marine Corps uses the Huey as their medium helicopter.  The CH-53 is not a medium transport helicopter, it is a heavy transport helicopter.  It has more in common with the Army's Chinook, and both the Army and the Marine Corps have a real need for heavy lift helicopters.  Currently, the Marine Corps uses a mix of CH-53s and Chinooks, but they'd like to slim down to one standard heavy helicopter for support reasons.   They can't standardize on the Chinook because it takes up too much room on a ship's flight deck. 

As for why the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps still use Vietnam-era airframes like the B-52, the C-130, the Huey, Cobra, the Chinook, the CH-53, it's because they are PROVEN air frames.  Proven.  Understood.  Dependable.  Beloved.  Flying is scary, and everyone prefers to be in a craft that has a history of bringing the passengers home.  Boeing still sells 747s.   

Use_the_name
Use_the_name

It always amazes me how much money each branch of the American military machine spends on equipment. Our military very recently upgraded from our Huey's to the NH90's(?)...and that's quite a thing. For the Americans it would simply be just another day in military procurement lol.

JoeBoyum
JoeBoyum

no reason the marines could not simply use a navalized version of the H-60 for both gunship and cargo helo duties instead of wasting the cash on a seperate program.  The H-60 was a mature airframe with the Navy and their MH-60 S and R versions could have been EASILY modified to fit the marine mission.  Or they could have bought into the Army's H-60L and SOAR's H-60K Direct Action Penetrator.

I remember quite clearly back in 1999 when I worked with some maries, they derided our use of optics on our issue rifles.  Then after 2003 there was a crash program to get them to individual marines.

They just suffer from the worst NIH (not invented here) syndrome possible.

E_L_P
E_L_P

And I would suggest that $160M for an F-35B isn't even enough money to get it into squadron service.

DonVeto
DonVeto

Ok so some facts herre on this OUTRAGEOUS waste. The Marines are running out of ch-53's they have to be replaced. Addition of the 44 aircraft was made 3 years ago. The K series will (or can depending on how politics works out) replace not only the used up D and E models but the V-22 as well (that costs a heckuva lot more to operate than the 53).  The article makes it sound like the 53 and the f-35 are similar in that the Marines just want a new helo. Thats not the case they are replacing an aging fleet with an updated version of an existing airframe.

Vanishing4thEstate
Vanishing4thEstate

Everyone is getting caught-up re the details. The thesis of this story is the scandalous WASTE of $Billions (maybe $Trillions!) every year when it comes to DOD procurement and maintenance of equipment. This is not about who’s ‘first’ or the ‘bravest’ when it comes to the soldiers. Imagine what could be provided to injured soldiers (and the families of those deceased because of conflict) if this sickening waste was brought under control.

robertavila
robertavila

You may make light of Marines not wanting to depend on the Air Force. BUT, when I was part of advanced deployed troops, we had a very, very short window to run the mile and half to our unit, pack all the vehicles, and haul hummer to the airstrip. We made it every time. THEN, we typically waited 12 to 18 hours -on an Air Force Base- to wait for AF pilots to arrive. 

In today's global military environment, we don't have time for the chair force to finish their beauty sleep.

CharleyA
CharleyA

The sad truth is the heavy lift  -53s are critical to support Marines on the ground.  The V-22s less so - other helos can perform roughly the same tasks; and Marine fast jets are redundant to the Navy's tacair.

Serenity
Serenity

Both the Huey and Cobra have been replaced with newer models based on the same type. But these are not the same helicopters they were flying in Vietnam.

elbendertheoffender
elbendertheoffender

The Marines have ALWAYS received the hand me down of the other branches because they fall under the Dept of the Navy. So anything they buy the Navy is actually buying it and giving it to them.

eifg
eifg

Why do the Marines even exist? It seems to be a redundant branch of the service.

DwightJones
DwightJones

In a military dictatorship funnelling money to its standing oligarchy, you don't ask simple questions like "why must the US continue down the road to bankruptcy with over-the-top weapons systems?"  

The Pentagon calls these questioners "reason freaks".

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

"The Marines wanted both of these – capable of taking off and landing from their cramped amphibious ships – because without them they’d have to rely on the Navy..." 

and whose ships would those be? last time i checked, the Marines don't have their own fleet of ships, they deploy with the Navy.  so could you please explain to me how investing in planes that take off from Navy ships is an attempt to assert independence from the Navy? shoddy journalism. overlooking basic facts to further your (very weak) argument of waste. sad, really


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