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Rotary Aircraft

Doctrinal Development

The original function of organic Army aviation during World War II was to assist in the adjustment of artillery fire. During the course of the war, however, organic aviation's small fixed-wing aircraft, commonly known as Grasshoppers, came to be used for command and control (C2), medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), wire laying, courier service, aerial photography, reconnaissance, and other purposes. The principal reason for the expanding mission of organic Army aviation was that its aircraft were accessible to ground commanders and able to operate in close coordination with ground forces. The aircraft of the Army Air Forces often were not.

Both the original creation of organic Army aviation and its assumption of additional functions during World War II provoked friction and rivalry between the Army Ground Forces and the Army Air Forces. When the Army Air Forces became the US Air Force in 1947 and organic Army aviation remained part of the Army, the friction continued and lasted until the 1970s. To avoid the expense of having two aviation organizations with overlapping functions, the War Department and later the Department of Defense (DOD) established restrictions on the roles and missions of Army aviation and on the size and type of Army aircraft. These restrictions were specified in a series of War Department and DOD memoranda and by agreements between the Army and the Air Force that began in 1942 and continued until 1975.

The United States Army Aviation Center (USAAVNC) was established at Fort Rucker in 1955, and in 1956, the Aviation School began mounting weapons on helicopters and developing air cavalry tactics. The Aviation School technically was not in total conformity with DOD restrictions on the Army's use of aircraft.

The Johnson-McConnell Agreement of 6 April 1966 authorized the Army to develop and employ rotary-wing aircraft for all intratheater purposes, including troop movement and fire support. In return, Army aviation gave up its larger fixed-wing aircraft and became, more so than ever, a rotary-wing force. From 1966 to the present, the Army has been the recognized American leader in the development of helicopters and helicopter weapons, tactics, and doctrine.

The Army continued to desire fixed-wing CAS from the Air Force. It was, therefore, relatively easy for the two services to agree, in 1975, that the attack helicopter did not perform CAS. Instead, it was an extension of organic firepower, and the Air Force would continue to provide CAS with fixed-wing aircraft. Since that time, there have been no serious disagreements over aviation missions and functions between the Army and the Air Force.



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