Tuberville Questions Air Force Officials on Cuts to the MH-139’s and F-35 Flight Hours for Upcoming Defense Bill

WASHINGTON: Today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)  spoke with the U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Allvin, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman about budgets for space programs and F-35 flight hours for pilots. Senator Tuberville also pressed the officials about the reasoning behind cuts to the MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters, whose pilots are being trained at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s remarks can be found below, and his full remarks can be found on YouTube and Rumble.


TUBERVILLE: “Good morning, gentlemen.

Gen. Saltzman, […] [The] President’s FY2025 budget contains a new program for space access, mobility and logistics. It’s only $20 million. What’s your plan for this?”

SALTZMAN: “Sir, that type of money is used to study, to figure out if there’s military utility. And so, for example, if we are looking at a concept called dynamic maneuvering – if we can have unlimited fuel in our spacecraft because we have the ability to service them on orbit, then we can have more dynamic orbits which are harder to target. That’s the concept, that’s the idea, but we really need to evaluate that to figure out if there’s serious military utility there before we invest heavily in a program. The $20 million gets us along that line.”

TUBERVILLE: “Yes, $20 million for five years. That’s not a lot of money. I mean, is that gonna get the job done?”

SALTZMAN: “Well, I believe we’ll have the answer to our basic questions on military utility with that, and then we can make a determination as [to] whether we need more funding.”


How’s your recruiting and retention?”

SALTZMAN: “We’re doing great. We still get thousands of applicants for hundreds of positions and we’re above 90 percent in terms of people that we want to retain. So, I’m not convinced that that’s going to last forever and so we’re working hard to make sure we provide our guardians with high levels of challenges and opportunities to enhance their own competencies to make sure we can retain that workforce.”


TUBERVILLE: “Sec. Kendall, recently, […] you decided to cut in half the MH-139’s and we’ve got one or two. I think we’ve got eight total eventually coming to Montgomery, in Maxwell. What’s your plan on this?”

KENDALL: “I think Maxwell has one already, and another a little later this year and then the full eight about a year after that. We did cut the buyback. We cut it from about 80 to about 40. And the reason for that was that the threat change in the areas which we expect to operate have changed. So, it’s a fairly expensive special purpose helicopter that […] doesn’t have that much utility in some of the theatres where we’d have to operate given the threshold there.

And there are a number of other assets in many cases can be used for personnel recovery. So, we basically downsized it to have what we think is reasonable for us to meet our needs given the changes in the threat. That’s been the fundamental driver.”



TUBERVILLE: “General Allvin, F-35’s, […] are we getting enough flying time knowing the costs of F-35’s [for] operating and maintaining?”

ALLVIN: “Well Senator, we are certainly trying to manage that to get as many as we can. As the weapons systems sustainment accounts and the flying hour program accounts are very much inter-related, so as we try to drive down the costs of what it costs to sustain that, we can put more of that into flying hours. No pilot thinks he or she ever has enough flying hours, we have certainly augmented that with our synthetic training, our joint synthetic environment has also helped us understand the things that we don’t necessarily want to do in open air because of security. I would say though that every pilot wants to fly more but we’re trying to manage that well to keep that proficiency up to keep up with the pace and threat.”

TUBERVILLE: “We want to make sure our pilots are safe.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.