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Last Updated:10/11/00
Excerpts from Defense Department News Briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense Kenneth Bacon, June 22, 2000

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, June 22, 2000 1:30 p.m. EST
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
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Q: Can I ask you, on Colombia and the counter-drug plan, what's the military assessment on Hueys versus Blackhawks for Plan Colombia?

Bacon: The assessment is that Blackhawks are preferable to Hueys on three counts. First, they're more capable. Second, they're more survivable. And third, they are more compatible with the infrastructure and helicopter force that Colombia already has. Colombia has 31 Blackhawks now. Under the Colombia aid bill, they would get 30 more. These are the helicopters that Colombia has requested, and these are the helicopters they're best prepared to maintain. And these are the helicopters that the U.S. military has assessed will be the best helicopters for the Colombian military.

Q: So is the discussion about going to the other helicopters, the Hueys, anything more than political lobbying by the Texas congressional delegation?

Bacon: Well, I don't think I can --

Q: Is there any military value to the Hueys?

Bacon: We think that there is a clear military advantage to the Blackhawks. Every analysis we've done confirms that the Blackhawk is the best way to go. And if Congress does the same analysis, we hope they will reach the same conclusion.

The goal here should be to take the most effective and efficient steps to help Colombia improve its counternarcotics program. We think that the Blackhawks do that. And we have informed Congress of that. We had an assessment team in Colombia just recently, a military -- in fact, they may still be there. But a military assessment team recently made a preliminary report on this and again confirmed that Blackhawks are the way to go. And there's one --

The way it's set up, the House, as I understand it, approved the request of Colombia and the administration for 30 Blackhawks; the Senate voted for 60 Hueys. One of the problems that the Colombian military has had is recruiting and training enough high quality pilots to fly its helicopters. Clearly, recruiting pilots to fly 30 helicopters, an additional 30 helicopters would be easier to do than recruiting 60 pilots to fly the 60 Hueys that the Senate has voted on.

But we think that irrespective of that issue, the Blackhawk is a far more capable helicopter. It flies faster, it flies higher, it is more survivable against the types of threats it's likely to encounter. And importantly, it is compatible with the maintenance infrastructure that Colombia has already set up for its helicopter force.

As of October 11, 2000, this document was also available online at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun2000/t06222000_t622asda.html

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