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The Pentagon is interested in having contractors provide two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters on call to rescue wounded American special operators in and around Yemen if necessary, as well as to perform various other missions. The announcement comes as it becomes increasingly clear that the U.S. military’s own aerial casualty evacuation capabilities are stretched thin and just months after it weathered serious criticism over relying heavily on private companies for these services following a deadly ambush in Niger.
Author: Joseph Trevithick (The Drive)
U.S. Transportation Command, acting on behalf of U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, posted the notice on FedBizOpps, the U.S. government’s main contracting website, on April 30, 2018. The draft documents say the basic requirements are for the four contractor-operated aircraft to provide casualty and medical evacuation, personnel recovery, and passenger and cargo services.
American special operators publicly returned to Yemen in 2016 after a brief absence, ostensibly to support operations against Al Qaeda- and ISIS-linked terrorists. The new element, known officially as Special Operations Command (Forward) Yemen, is the one the contract announcement specifically names as needing the aviation support. Additional special operations forces have made short-duration raids into the country, as well.
The U.S. military has been actively engaged in various counter-terrorism and related training missions in the country since at least 2009. In 2015, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition repeatedly intervened in the country to halt the rise of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, but American personnel on the ground at present are not supposed to be engaged in any operations together with those forces.
Casualty evacuation and more
The April 2018 contract notice says U.S. special operators in the country are now in need of fixed-wing aircraft that can take off and land on runways as short as 3,000 feet, or even less and possibly at night with the crew having to use night vision goggles. The planes may need to “hot refuel” with the engines still running at forward locations.
Though the contracting notice doesn’t specify any particular types of aircraft, the fixed-wing types have to be able to fly at least 500 miles without refueling while carrying up to eight passengers or as much as 4,000 pounds of cargo. The contract would have to supply trained medical personnel, as well, to be able to render aid immediately and throughout the flight, presumably as the aircraft flew onward to a location with a more robust medical facility.
The two helicopters, also with crews capable of night vision goggle operations at night, would need to have unrefueled ranges of a minimum of 400 miles, also while transporting as many as eight individuals or 3,500 pounds of cargo.
In addition to emergency medical technicians to see to wounded personnel throughout the operation, the helicopters would also need to be able to hoist personnel or other items over water or in rugged, mountainous terrain, the latter being referred to as “high angle” recoveries.
The crews of both the fixed-wing planes and the helicopters need to mobilize within 30 minutes of receiving a notification from U.S. Central Command. Having two of each aircraft type is specifically to allow for one to be fully mission capable at all times, with an alternate in case of unforeseen issues.
However, there is no stated requirement, at least in the draft documentation, about how quickly they aircraft need to be able to get to the specified location or complete the mission. Emergency medical professionals generally aim to get injured individuals to the next level of care within the “golden hour.” Though there is some debate about whether a firm 60-minute window makes a difference, it goes without saying that the faster a person with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries can get into a proper medical facility, the better chance they have of making a full recovery.
Full article with more information can be found here.