The heavy toll on equipment from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is evident in the US Department of Defense’s $67.9 billion fiscal year 2006 supplemental funding request to Congress. Systems to interdict improvised explosive devices (IED) are also high on the Pentagon’s shopping list.
Sixteen Apaches have been lost in Afghanistan and Iraq
Funds are sought to replace nine lost General Atomics MQ-1 Predator unmanned air vehicles, and to replace the Raytheon RAS-1R signals-intelligence (SIGINT) sensor lost when a Lockheed U-2 crashed in the United Arab Emirates in 2005 while returning from a mission over Afghanistan.
Funds are also requested to refurbish a retired Fairchild A-10 to replace one lost to hostile action, and to restore two stored Sikorsky CH-53s to mitigate a 13-helicopter shortage. Money is also sought to repair three Boeing A/MH-6M special-operations helicopters damaged in combat, and Boeing C-17s damaged during hard landings.
Possible intelligence improvements include upgrading Beech RC-12 SIGINT aircraft to locate terrorist communications emitters; giving the Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint a real-time wide-band SIGINT capability; acquiring C-130-based Senior Scout quick-reaction signals collection and processing systems; and equipping electronic-attack Northrop EA-6Bs with waveforms to jam terrorist communications.
Anti-insurgent measures sought include procurement of two additional classified IED defeat kits for USAF EC-130 Compass Call information-warfare aircraft, plus 12 additional Northrop Litening targeting pods for Boeing F/A-18s and modification of Boeing AV-8Bs for centreline carriage of the Litening pod to reduce sensor masking.
Funds are also sought for safety upgrades. USAF Sikorsky HH-60s will receive altitude-hold hover stabilisation systems. Requested CH-53 upgrades include crash-attenuating seats, mechanical diagnostic systems, engine aerofoil coatings and Blue Force Tracker moving maps. USAF AC-130U gunships will get traffic collision avoidance systems while USMC KC-130Ts will get fuel-tank foam and electronic countermeasures.
GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC