ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
When most people think of the Air Force, airplanes and jets first come to mind. However, there is another type of aircraft that is very important to protecting and serving our nation – they’re helicopters. And Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is home to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Helicopter System Program Office.
“We are responsible for the sustainment and modification of the entire fleet of the United States Air Force’s helicopters,” said Chad Langston, AFLCMC Rotary Wing Branch Materiel leader. “Our aircraft numbers are fewer compared to the other services. For instance, we hover around 200 helicopters while the Army has several thousand.”
The depot maintenance of United States Air Force helicopters are located at other military installations or contractor sites around the globe.
The USAF fleet includes: HH-60G/HH-60G OLR “Pave Hawk”, HH-60W “Jolly Green II, and UH-1N/TH-1H “Huey”.
The “Pave Hawks” and “Jolly Green IIs” are used to conduct day or night combat search and rescue operations into hostile environments to recover isolated personnel during war. They are also used in civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance.
“The UH-1N Hueys are used for several different scenarios, like distinguished visitors transport or nuclear armed over-watch,” said Langston. “The benefit of helicopters is the vertical lift capability to come into a hot landing zone and pull people out that need to be saved. The aircraft can also provide suppressive fire, if needed, during a rescue attempt.”
Langston said the AFLCMC Helicopter SPO has a full contingent of:
– Engineers - To solve problems.
– Logisticians - To make sure the warfighter has what they need where and when they need it.
– Equipment specialists - To lend their decades of hands-on helicopter maintenance experience.
– Technical data experts - To make sure crews have the information they need to maintain the helos in the field.
– Program managers - To lead modification and support acquisition efforts.
– Contracting officers - To give industry a fair chance for companies partner with us and support the fleet.
– Financial managers - To obtain and manage funds for it all.
“This is a one-stop-shop if anything goes wrong,” said Langston. “In my position, I manage the manning, training, and equipment of the entire SPO and make sure they have what they need to do what they do.”
Langston described his section as seasoned members with hands-on helicopter experience at every stage of the lifecycle.
“We have a team of what’s called equipment specialist who I love very much,” he said. “They are usually maintainers, retired crew chiefs who have been everywhere, done everything and have twenty or forty plus years of experience on helicopters. We send those people out with that hands-on experience and knowledge to those who need help to interpret technical data.”
In 2031, the current Hueys will be replaced with the Air Force's newest helicopter, the MH-139A Grey Wolf. It’s reported the performance capabilities closes gaps of the UH-1N in the areas of speed, range, endurance, payload and survivability.
Langston takes pride in the SPO mission.
“It’s my daily motivation and is stated in my email signature block, ‘These things we do that others may live.’ That is our purpose and motto of the pararescue jumpers that go and save people around the world.”