Air Force could end Sikorsky helicopter mission

Connecticut lawmakers are panicking over reports the Air Force’s entire combat search-and-rescue mission — carried out by aging Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters — could disappear or be scaled back under Pentagon plan to handle sequestration –- or across the board budget cuts –- in the next federal fiscal year.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and  Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, vowed to vigorously lobby the Pentagon to scrap the plan, which would prevent Sikorsky from  providing 100 new helicopters to replace the aging fleet.

“Cutting the Connecticut-made combat rescue helicopters should be a non-starter, and I am fighting this shortsighted, misguided decision,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Rescuing downed warfighters is a core mission –- a non-debatable mission -– that is now dependent on 30-year-old helicopters that should be replaced as soon as possible.”

Blumenthal and Murphy also wrote the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s panel on defense, Sen. Dick Durbiin, D-Ill., requesting the full funding about $333.5 million, for the Air Force’s search-and-rescue program this year. The Senate has proposed a reduction in the funding of the program.

DeLauro wrote key members of the House Appropriations Committee also asking for full funding for the program.