Helicopter News reported last week (5/22) that Sikorsky, makers of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and Bell Helicopter Textron, makers of the UH-1 Huey, are jockeying for position to determine who will get to fulfill the $36 million commitment Congress has made for the Colombian National Police (CNP).
The Hueys, of which the CNP currently has 40 -- although few are operational and most are in need of parts -- are Vietnam-era helicopters which have been upgraded by the manufacturer in recent years. The Black Hawks are, according to their manufacturer, more "suviveable" in crashes and are able to withstand ground fire more easily; they are also more expensive. Bell, for its part, claims that the same $36 million which could purchase three Black Hawks would afford the purchase of 21 Huey helicopters.
Joseph Miranda, former instructor at the American School for Special Warfare, told The Week Online, "It's no secret that the Drug War has replaced the Cold War as America's number one excuse for military expenditures and the sale of military hardware. But unlike the Cold War, during which the demand was for ultra high-tech, very expensive hardware, the Drug War has allowed for the sale of light arms, medium-tech equipment like night vision goggles, and helicopters.
"The defense industry doesn't care whether or not the war itself is a good idea, that's not their job. In fact, it's an enormous advantage, from their standpoint, that there are no real measurable or achievable objectives. There's no end-game, and so their interest lies in keeping the war going for as long as possible, because as long as the policy lasts, there will be a never-ending market for their products."
(Check out Joe Miranda's analysis of the military and the drug war at http://www.drcnet.org/military.)