The National Guard can say goodbye to its Apache attack helicopters.
By this fall, the Army will take control of all National Guard Apache aircrafts as part of its Aviation Restructuring Initiative, starting with 24 from the Johnstown Military Aviation Complex and another 24 from the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Last year, U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) testified before the House Armed Services Committee to keep the aircraft in Johnstown, leading to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. But the Senate version of the bill passed instead, which called for 48 helicopters to be moved in October.
At the time, Rothfus said he was under the impression that the 48 aircraft would come from several bases around the country, not just two.
“It provides a significant depth, if our National Guard is called up, to have these resources there,” Rothfus said. “We would be losing those resources if those moves went through.”
According to the Tribune-Democrat, the 350 part-time members of the 1st Battalion, 104th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion in Johnstown will not be relocated with the equipment.
The military has proposed replacing every four Johnstown Apaches with one Black Hawk helicopter, but Rothfus said he still wouldn’t want to see the Apaches go.
“Certainly if there is an opportunity to get replacement aircraft into Johnstown, we would certainly be supportive of that, but we would not want to see the Apaches moved because of the quality of the equipment that they represent and what they’ve been able to do for the Guard,” Rothfus said.
The National Defense Authorization Act also created the National Commission on the Future of the Army intended to review all moves, but according to Rothfus, the commission was not considered when it came to the Apaches.
“Once you start moving these things around, it becomes very difficult to reverse those decisions,” Rothfus said. “And if the national commission comes out and says, ‘Wait a minute. This is going to have a negative impact on the nation’s readiness. We shouldn’t be doing it.’ Well, if the Apaches already moved, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reverse those moves.”
Rothfus said he will testify against the move in front of the House Armed Services Committee next week.
“I think this is totally premature that they would decide to close an entire battalion and there needs to be time to let the commission do its work,” he said. “The commission has not even had a meeting yet.”