Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dunn: Combat Search & Rescue needed

Friday, March 27, 2009

AFA Members, Congressional Staffers, Civic Leaders, and DOCA members, one of the (dumber) ideas floating around Washington these days is to cancel the AF's replacement rescue helicopter – designated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) – X. The logic behind this idea is that other assets can do the mission, and therefore, the DOD does not need specialized assets.

This logic is ably disputed with an op-ed written by former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen (Ret) Michael E. Ryan [see:]. Gen Ryan argues that the CSAR mission area is not a "pick-up" game; AF CSAR forces have rescued over 3000 people in CENTCOM's Area of Responsibility since 9/11; and CSAR is a very complicated and dangerous mission … for which we need … a ready, trained, and dedicated force.

In a recent panel discussion of AFA's Mitchell Institute at the National Press Club, a similar question was asked to the panel. I thought Gen (Ret) Gregory S. Martin's answer deserves your attention. He said that there are a lot of experts on CSAR … but none of them are in positions of authority. He (Martin) has commanded CSAR forces and understands a little bit about the mission. If you are interested in rescuing people who have been shot down, then you need a dedicated force … one that is trained, equipped, and properly sized to be available to rescue people who become isolated behind enemy lines. You don't know where you will have to go … you may have to go into the mouth of the tiger; you may have to shoot your way in or out … but it is the American military ethos to not leave people behind.

Since I also commanded a group with two CSAR squadrons in it … if only for just a short period of time … let me add that my units saved lots of lives "in peacetime." They were scrambled, often in the middle of the night, to go to some faraway places. The crews, to include the PJs, were the most professional of any I saw during my career. They were deployed over 200 days per year and saved hundreds of civilians in their assigned area. Further, in Iraq and Afghanistan, our present enemies don't exactly have POW camps. They don't bother to follow the Geneva Conventions. They torture and kill their captives. To quote Gen (Ret) T. Michael Moseley, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, " … to protect our people – not just Airmen, but those of all Services – it is a moral imperative that we field a new system." That is why the CSAR – X was and still is the #2 acquisition priority (behind KC-X) of the Air Force.

For a transcript of the Mitchell Institute event, go to:

For the latest Mitchell Institute study [Combat Air Forces in Crisis], go to:

For those of you interested in Blogging on this issue, visit our blog site, Air Force Association Blog.

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn


johca said...

Of course it’s needed. Combat search and rescue cut its teeth considerably during WWII in CBI Theater. Had to re-cut its teeth during Korean Conflict, the conflicts of Southeast Asia and again and again.

Ariel rescue to include pararescue capabilities never gets much acknowledgement of the other missions that are not during time of conflict but are of such sensitive nature the potential of encountering hostile or unfriendly adversaries willing to capture, detain, kill is there.

Here are links to a few short histories I have written posted on my personal web site that expand considerably on my comment above.

wendellbwood said...

I agree that the current plans for CSAR should be scrapped! For too long, air rescue has suffered from being forced to take someone else's helicopter and trying to modify it to perform tge CSAR mission.

We need a helicopter designed and built for rescue! Just a few ideas: 1. Armor the aircraft to withstand small arms fire and larger weapons if possible; 2. Build a "Trap Door" (large enough to allow a Stokes Litter and Rescue Basket to pass through) in the center of the belly and mount the hoist (fast, hydraulic w/1000 lb capability)to the ceiling above the center of the opening - approaching a survivor, open the Trap Door and position the hoist, drop whatever device (Forest Penetrator, Basket, etc.) or a PJ if survivor needs assistance, reel survivor in (on the go if possible), there would be no unnecessary hovering over a hot spot while a Flight Engineer and others grabbed at the survivor to get him safely aboard. Close the Trap Door and get the H--- out of Dodge!; 3. Examine some conceptual ideas to reduce weight ane increase speed - some ideas I have seen are to employ two counter-rotating blades (eliminate torque and need for a tail rotor) and/or use a pusher blade at the aft end of the vehicle to improve forward thrust. 4. Take a close look at associated rescue equipment - all our peripherals are 50 years old. How about a collabsible teepee (apex on hoist line, skirt extending below the rescue device) with kevlar reinforced slats which could wrap around either a PJ while lowering or a survivor while coming up to protece from small arms fire, brush, and tree limbs.

There are many more improvements we could make to provide a CSAR vehicle which meets the needs of the Air Force, the aircrew and tlhe rescuee. Unfortunately, the time and expense of such a vehicle will never get approval.

Still, if we are going to take someone elses bird, at least look at modifying it to better meet the needs of Combat Rescue and improved peripheral equipment definitely needs examination - why should we use a heavy and clumsy Forest Penetrator in our current theaters where I don't see many trees!

Wendell B. Wood
Rescue Helicopter Pilot - Viet Nam and Aviano, IT