The Navy has purchased two decommissioned Japanese military helicopters and additional used parts, completing an international deal in the works for more than five years. The U.S. plans to harvest the aircraft for parts to maintain its aging fleet of MH-53E Sea Dragons.
A Navy spokeswoman couldn't place a value on the acquisition, but it appears the service bought the used helicopters and parts at a steep discount, paying about $67,000. One Sea Dragon is worth about $60 million new.
The Navy's Sea Dragon program - initially set for retirement a decade ago - has long been hampered by a shortage of replacement parts, a problem that came to a head earlier this year after the service ordered fleet-wide inspections and repairs to fix potentially dangerous fuel lines and wiring bundles.
Some of the parts needed to make those repairs are not available and are no longer made by manufacturers, leaving two time-consuming options: Make the parts, or custom-order them from suppliers. As a result, a majority of the Sea Dragon fleet based at Norfolk Naval Station remains grounded. Some parts from those helicopters were cannibalized and sent overseas to streamline repairs on seven that are forward-deployed in South Korea and Bahrain. (end of excerpt)
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