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Rotary Aircraft - Army Plans

The Aviation UA is able to organize by task, purpose and mission. This provides several advantages over the current force structure. The organization now includes robust scout, attack, air assault, utility and cargo capabilities. It also includes organic aviation maintenance support in the aviation support battalion (located today at the division support command). Combat medical evacuation aircraft are directly organic to the aviation brigade commander to better support forces. Further, it will be much easier to task-organize across divisions in order to meet the maneuver commander's air requirements. Aviation combat missions are performed by maneuver forces engaged in shaping the battlespace and conducting decisive combat operations by employing direct fire and standoff precision weapons in combined arms operations.
  • Reconnaissance operations obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods. This information may concern the activities and resources of an enemy or potential threat, or the meteorological, hydrographic characteristics of a particular area. Reconnaissance assets must possess the ability to develop the situation, process the information, and provide it to commanders in near real time. Army aviation's most modern assets, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and the AH-64 Apache, give the force commander a dramatically improved 24-hour air reconnaissance capability that can better develop the situation and rapidly send information to wherever it is most needed. No longer is the primary mission of attack helicopter assets within cavalry units to protect the scouts.
  • Security operations provide maneuver space, reaction time, and protect the main body. Security is incorporated as part of the battlefield framework in planning all offensive or defensive operations. Although reconnaissance and security missions are associated with the corps cavalry regiment and the division cavalry squadron, attack helicopter battalions are well suited for these missions. Counterreconnaissance is an inherent task in all security operations.
  • Special electronic mission aircraft (SEMA) perform surveillance at both the operational and tactical levels of war. Electronic warfare (EW) is an essential component of C2 warfare (C2W). As part of C2W, EW is used in conjunction with multidisciplined counterintelligence to protect friendly C2 while attacking the enemy's C2 structure. Effective use of EW--as a decisive element of combat power--requires coordination and integration of EW operations with the commander's scheme of maneuver and fire support plan. The integrated use of EW throughout the battlefield supports the synergy needed to locate, identify, damage, and destroy enemy forces and their structure. SEMA use the electromagnetic spectrum to locate, and target, enemy units and facilities; intercept enemy communications; disrupt enemy C4I; and target acquisition capabilities.
  • Attack helicopter operations are directed at the destruction of enemy ground force at decisive points. Attack units can conduct deep operations or be used in conjunction with ground maneuver units during close battle operations. For cross-component support, Army attack helicopters, usually tasked as units, can perform a close air support (CAS) function. Attack units normally are most effective when used in mass in continuous operations on the enemy's flanks and rear. Night operations are the preference. Corps attack battalions can be used independently by the corps commander or placed under OPCON of divisions to execute massed attacks on the enemy in depth. Support by fire (SBF) is a mission given to attack helicopters, directing them to establish a base of fire or an overwatch position. It can be used to engage a target while ground or air maneuver assets move to or bypass the same target area. It may range from suppression to destruction of the target; however, the primary mission is to fix the target so another force may maneuver. SBF positions are less restrictive than battle positions.
  • Air assault operations are those in which air assault forces (combat, CS, and CSS)--employing the firepower, mobility, protection, and total integration of helicopter assets in their air or ground roles--maneuver on the battlefield, under the control of the air assault task force commander (AATFC), to engage and destroy forces or to seize and hold key terrain. Either the ground or air maneuver commander is designated the AATFC. Air assault operations are inherently complex, fully synchronized combat operations particularly important for light forces as they are the primary means of rapid deployment. In some cases, they are the only means of employment directly into combat. Air assault should always be considered by heavy forces to assist in overcoming obstacles in the seizure of critical terrain, and in follow and support missions to preserve the momentum of attack.
  • Special operations aviation (SOA) units are trained, equipped, and manned to support both special and conventional operating forces. Special operations cover a series of unique primary, collateral, and emerging missions that directly support a theater combatant commander. Army SOA assets are dedicated to conducting special operations missions across the full range of military operations. They provide a mix of short-, medium-, and long-range lift, and limited light-attack capabilities. They support all principal, collateral, and emerging mission areas; they can conduct autonomous special reconnaissance and direct action missions.
  • Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) aviation units must be prepared to conduct combat search and rescue in support of their own operations and to provide support at both the intra- and inter-service levels. CSAR planning should begin before forces deploy or immediately after arrival in the AO. Aviation units must develop a complete CSAR posture using a planning process that is fully complementary to ongoing operational planning. CSAR plans must be designed with the flexibility to employ all joint CSAR-capable resources in the most efficient and effective manner.
  • Aerial sustainment is the movement of equipment, material, supplies, and personnel by utility, cargo, and fixed-wing assets for operations other than air assault and combat support. These air movements are considered CSS missions because the aviation forces are not task organized with combined arms forces, nor do they move CS forces or assets whose primary mission is to engage and destroy enemy forces. Missions include intratheater airlift; administrative relocation of troops and nonmilitary personnel; and administrative relocation of equipment, material, and supplies.
  • Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) is a part of combat health support. CASEVAC includes battlefield pickup of casualties; evacuation of casualties to initial treatment facilities; and subsequent movement of casualties to treatment facilities within the combat zone. CASEVAC is an aviation mission directly supporting a ground unit with casualty evacuation aircraft from forward locations to the brigade support area (BSA) or other designated collection/treatment facility. Aeromedical assets also will move medical personnel and supplies. Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) is the process of moving patients while providing them enroute care. Most aviation units are not equipped or staffed to perform MEDEVAC. It is also requested through medical channels. CASEVAC can be performed by any Army aviation utility aircraft when tasked by the maneuver commander. These requests would go through aviation channels.
Most of the Army's aviation combat power resides in multifunctional combat aviation brigades. These organizations can be task-organized based on the mission. They include various types of organizations, with manned and unmanned systems. Combat aviation brigades are organized to support divisions, BCTs, and support brigades. They specialize in providing combat capabilities to multiple BCTs. However, they can be task-organized to support a theater army or corps acting as a joint task force or land component command.

Army helicopters are based and flown from forward combat areas, generally just to the rear of enemy artillery range. Consequently, unit maintenance is conducted in austere conditions, generally without artificial lighting. During combat operations, the helicopter may be flown eight to nine flight hours with maintenance being conducted for another four to twelve hours. A large volume of spare parts must be delivered to forward units on short notice. Most helicopters have a 2 to 2.5 hour fuel duration. Between missions the aircraft refuel and rearm at Forward Arming & Refuel Points (FARP). FARPs require significant logistics support in the way of large volumes of fuel and ammunition resupply. Aircraft maintenance is also conducted at these sites.

Aviation combat missions are performed by maneuver forces engaged in shaping the battlespace and conducting decisive combat operations by employing direct fire and standoff precision weapons in combined arms operations.

Reconnaissance operations obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods. This information may concern the activities and resources of an enemy or potential threat, or the meteorological, hydrographic characteristics of a particular area. Reconnaissance assets must possess the ability to develop the situation, process the information, and provide it to commanders in near real time. Army aviation's most modern assets, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and the AH-64 Apache, give the force commander a dramatically improved 24-hour air reconnaissance capability.

The primary purpose of attack helicopter operations is the destruction of enemy ground force at decisive points. Attack units can conduct deep operations or be used in conjunction with ground maneuver units during close battle operations. For cross-component support, Army attack helicopters, usually tasked as units, can perform a close air support (CAS) function. Attack units normally are most effective when used in mass in continuous operations on the enemy's flanks and rear. Night operations are the preference.

Although the primary mission of an attack helicopter is to destroy armored and mechanized threat targets, this mission changes when the helicopter is employed in a low-intensity conflict (LIC). In this environment, it may assume a role similar to close air support (CAS) for the units on the ground. With this new role, it is important for infantry units to effectively communicate with and direct the attack aircraft. Small infantry units can already call in fire from attack helicopters; this was very common in many combat actions in Vietnam. But the art of providing attack helicopter fire support to light infantry has been lost, for the most part, from disuse. The reason is that although attack helicopters can be used throughout the spectrum of conflict from low- to high-intensity, the focus has been on mid- to high-intensity where they can mass fires against armor and mechanized forces. There are many ways the attack helicopter can be tasked to support an infantry unit, whether it is requested on the spot, through battalion and brigade, or assigned a direct support role during a mission. No matter how the tasking comes down, communication between the helicopter and the ground unit is paramount.

Air assault operations are those in which air assault forces employing the firepower, mobility, protection, and total integration of helicopter assets in their air or ground roles maneuver on the battlefield, under the control of the air assault task force commander (AATFC), to engage and destroy forces or to seize and hold key terrain. Air assault operations are inherently complex, fully synchronized combat operations particularly important for light forces as they are the primary means of rapid deployment.

Utility and cargo helicopters operate throughout the battlefield. As a fully integrated member of the combined arms team, utility and cargo helicopter units conduct combat, combat support and combat service support operations in support of the commander. They operate throughout the battlefield framework and are capable of conducting operations day and night. Army operations require worldwide strategic mobility. Given this requirement, utility and cargo helicopter units must be able to conduct operations in multiple environments. These operations range from war to stability and support operations. Army aviation doctrine focuses on the integration and synchronization of helicopters as a member of the combined arms team. The ability to successfully conduct operations depends on the correct application of the five basic tenets of Army doctrine. These tenets include initiative, agility, depth, synchronization, and versatility. In April 1954, General James Gavin published an influential popular article on air mobility, based (as far as security permitted) on a series of studies conducted under Gavin's authority while he was responsible for Army planning and operations as Assistant Chief of Staff.66 Here, he suggested that troops mounted in helicopters and assault transports-"sky cavalry'-could perform the traditional cavalry roles and provide a flexible reserve of firepower.

On 07 September 2001, the Army announced a significant acceleration of the Aviation Modernization Plan. This acceleration advances the retirement of aging aircraft and reduces the number of helicopters in the active and Reserve components by 1,000. By the end of 2004, there will no longer be AH-1 Cobras or UH-1 Hueys in the Army; by that date, the Army's operational helicopter fleet will contain only AH-64 Apaches, UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and OH-58 Kiowas.

The plan also modernizes Army Reserve and Army National Guard aviation by moving some 240 aircraft from the active to the Reserve components, as well as restructuring and standardizing lift and attack formations.

For example, heavy-lift (CH-47) companies will be reduced from 16 aircraft per company to 14. Corps level attack (AH-64) battalions will go from 24 aircraft to 21. Although the number of aircraft is reduced, the number of maintenance units is not. Also in selected units, there will be more crewmembers available per aircraft. With more maintenance assets available for fewer aircraft, the operational readiness of the Army's aviation fleet should be enhanced, as it works to increase its operational readiness goal from its current 75 percent to 90 percent by 2004.

The philosophy of the aviation restructuring initiative (basically) is the Army will divest itself of the UH-1, recapitalize the UH-60 fleet, restructure to help align with the objective force, focus lift resources, accelerate the RAH-66 Comanche, increase effectiveness, and maximize the SFTS.

The timeline that was briefed follows:

  • FY 02, All Divisional, NG, and OCONUS EH-60's to Fort Rucker. 3 UH-60A to UH-60A recapitalizations completed as a proof of process, eventually 19 will be completed per year.
  • FY 03, 18th Airborne Corps, Alaska, 4-2 RAS, MEDEVAC, & TDA units restructure.
  • FY 04, 4-3 RAS, V Corps units restructure and 10 UH-60M's are fielded
  • FY 05, Fill ARNG CS Brigades, Reach the goal of 1680 UH60's fielded

There will be a 28% reduction in aircraft in the field (RA). They will be reallocated to the NG, Fort Rucker and the spares program.

An accelerated aviation modernization plan predicts that by the end of 2004, the Army's operational fleet will consist of only four types of helicopters: the AH-64 Apache, the UH-60 Black Hawk, the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and the CH-47 Chinook.

The AH-64 Apache is the Army's attack helicopter. By the end of 2002, attack helicopter battalions in heavy divisions will be restructured from 24 to 18 AH-64 Apaches. Corps level attack battalions will be converted from 24 to a maximum of 21 aircraft.

The UH-60 Black Hawk will remain the foundation of the Army's utility helicopter fleet. To have the capability required for the Objective Force, the Army will continue to recapitalize and upgrade the UH-60.

The CH-47 Chinook will continue to provide medium/heavy lift capability for the foreseeable future. The CH-47F model upgrade program is slated to begin in early 2003.

For the long-term, the RAH-66 Comanche remains the Army's highest aviation priority and is the centerpiece of Army aviation objective force transformation. Comanche will provide the commander on the ground with more timely and accurate information about tactical situations. Comanche provides the ability to orchestrate devastating firepower and synchronize mobile security, even in the most challenging operational environments.

The plan, the result of a two-year effort, contained specific guidance to accelerate the retirement of older, "legacy aircraft" from the Vietnam era. It allows the Army to compress the procurement timeline of the Comanche aircraft and moves newer helicopters into National Guard and Army Reserve units sooner.

The Chief of Staff of the Army established a goal of attaining a 90 percent mission capable rate, in contrast to the current fleet average of 75 percent.

The Army's plan will reduce the total number of aircraft by more than 400 in the active force, and 600 in the reserve forces. This includes accelerating the retirement of the UH-1H Iroquois "Huey" helicopter and of the AH-1F Cobra attack helicopter.

An Aviation Transformation strategy was briefed to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA), GEN Eric Shinseki on 4 January 2002. The briefing finalized the Army Aviation Interim Transformation Structure, and presented a detailed implementation plan. The CSA approved the implementation plan, starting in FY02. The implementation plan included funding associated with transformation, elimination of Fort Rucker IERW backlog, and limited aviation unfunded requirements (UFRs) associated with transformation.

There were four open issues requiring further effort and staffing associated with transforming aviation to the interim structure:

  • A strategy and feasibility analysis to achieve a 90% mission capable rate in Army aviation.
  • A complete review of TDA aircraft distribution plans to include the CTCs, ATEC, and MEDEVAC.
  • TRADOC in concert with the DA Staff is developing and O&O plan that will set the required capabilities for our fixed wing force and where it can best be positioned to meet operational requirements.
  • Detailed memorandums of agreement (MOA's) between Active and Reserve Component aviation units to facilitate aircraft transfers.

The Army's Aviation transformation to the interim force structure focuses resources on maintaining our war fighting capability by divesting of legacy aircraft and investing in objective force systems and capabilities.

On 23 February 2004 the Army announced a major restructure and revitalization of Army aviation resulting from a study initiated within the Army several months earlier. This study reflected the lessons learned and experiences gained by the Army's recent two-and-a-half years of combat in the global war on terror as well as the operational environments envisioned in the foreseeable future. The revised plans out to fiscal year 2011, include the procurement of almost 800 new aircraft for the active and Reserve components and the enhancement, upgrade, modernization and recapitalization of over 1,400 aircraft.

Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee announced that he and the service's chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, recommended canceling the 21-year-old Comanche helicopter program after the comprehensive review of Army aviation technology and structure. The roughly $14 billion allocated to the program between 2004 and 2011 will go toward other aviation programs. That $14 billion represents about 40 percent of the planned Army aviation budget through fiscal year 2011.

The plan fully funded the Apache Block III Longbow. The Longbow with full Block III capability gives us all the digital connectivity, the battlefield awareness, the battlefield situational understanding that the Army would get with Block I Comanche. The fire-control radar on Longbow Block III is the same fire-control radar that Block I Comanche would have. The Army planned to divest the Kiowa Warrior and purchase a new armed reconnaissance helicopter with the cast common cockpit, so it's digital connectivity, about 368 of them. The Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) will be a multi-functional aircraft able to perform various missions, such as reconnaissance, aerial command and control, and support of ground forces in close combat or in support of Homeland Security.

The Army will buy at least 303 light utility helicopters in order to complete divestment of 880 UH-1 Hueys and OH-58A/C Kiowas. These FAA certified light utility aircraft will provide administrative support at our training bases and also be assigned to National Guard units to conduct state missions, assist in counter-narcotics operations, and respond to homeland security requirements.

In conjunction with sister services the Army will begin development of joint vertical lift platforms that provide commonality and revolutionary capabilities in the future.

Toward the end of the Cold War, the Army's helicopter fleet consisted of nearly 9,000 aircraft. Over the following 20 years the fleet has contracted to about 3,500 aircraft. Despite the elimination of many older helicopters and the modernization or replacement of others, most of the helicopters in the fleet either exceed or soon would reach ages greater than the Army considered practical.





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