Guard chief: ‘Decision made’ on shifting Apaches to active Army
An AH-64 Apache assigned with the US Army Europe’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade prepares for departure during a March 28 exercise. Gen. Frank Grass, the National Guard’s top general, appeared resigned to a plan that moves all of the branch’s AH-64 Apache helicopters into the active Army. (Spc. Glenn M. Anderson / Army)
The National Guard’s top general on Tuesday appeared resigned to a plan that moves all of the branch’s AH-64 Apache helicopters into the active Army.
Gen. Frank Grass, who just last week testified on Capitol Hill that he opposes the plan, said on Tuesday that he’s focused now on how to best implement the moves.
“As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we have fought and we have discussed many, many times these topics,” Grass said Tuesday while testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He’s “given my best advice, but the decision has been made,” Grass said.
Air Force Maj. Shannon Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Guard, confirmed Grass’ remarks.
“These are very difficult decisions and there will be more difficult ones yet to come,” she said. “His focus now is to determine the impacts and how best to implement the decision.”
Under the aviation restructuring plan, which is in the Defense Department’s fiscal 2015 budget request, the Army would divest its fleet of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and use the Apache to fill the Kiowa’s reconnaissance and scout role.
It would pull Apaches from the Guard inventory to fill the gap, and the Army would provide the Guard with UH-60 Black Hawks, which Army officials believe will give the Guard more capability.
Army officials have said the active Army would lose 23 percent of its aircraft while the Guard would lose 8 percent of its inventory under this plan.
It’s widely believed that the six-year aviation restructuring plan will become a reality, and the moves will be completed by the end of fiscal 2019.
Still pending, however, is legislation introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., that would establish a national commission to study the makeup of the Army and prohibit the service from divesting, retiring or transferring any aircraft from the Army Guard.
Last week, Grass told the House Appropriations Committee the Guard has “provided an alternative solution” that would transfer about 40 percent of its Apaches into the active Army. The Guard would then retain enough Apaches to keep six attack battalions in its formation. The Guard has eight Apache battalions.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who testified alongside Grass Tuesday, said the aviation restructure allows the Army to “eliminate obsolete airframes, reduce sustainment costs and organize ourselves to meet our operational commitments and imperatives.”
In addition to the aircraft moves, the aviation plan includes inactivating three combat aviation brigades from the active Army and moving all of the active Army’s LUH-72 Lakotas to Fort Rucker, Ala., to be used as training aircraft.
The Army Guard will retain 10 aviation brigades and all of its Lakotas, and receive 111 Black Hawks.
“We must make sure we have the best Army possible, even under full sequestration,” Odierno said.