An aviation brigade (similar in size to an Air Force wing) is assigned to support the division, which organizes about 10,000 soldiers into the main fighting element of the Army. The overall combat effectiveness of the division is enhanced by the aviation brigade that carries out timely reconnaissance and intelligence, massed attack helicopter fire, air-to-air and joint Army-Air Force close air support, air assault (troop movement), and rapid repositioning of division assets. The aviation brigade assists the division commander in promptly seizing the initiative across the width and depth of the dynamic battlefield.
The elements within each aviation brigade are organized into battalions (similar in size to an Air Force squadron), companies, and platoons or squads. The aircraft and aircrew composition of each of these brigade sub-elements can be adjusted to meet the specialty needs of each division, be it an airborne (parachute assault infantry), airmobile (helicopter assault infantry), heavy (armor-artillery- infantry), or light (mobile infantry) division.
As of 2003 there were five different Avn Bde structures in the active force: HVY, LT, 2ID, AASLT, ABN and there are two different structures in the National Guard for a total of seven different AVN BDEs. Additionally, the sustainment structure differs significantly with Heavy Divisions with an organic ASB (in the DISCOM) and Light Division retaining an AVIM CO organic to the AVN BDE This causes significant confusion for the warfighter as well as the sustainers not to mention the Pentagon planners. Unfortunately, in most cases, the Compo 2 [NG] and 3 [USAR] units aligned with active structure were not activated to fill out the force structure when the Army had to go to war, this includes their aviation maintenance. This left a huge capability gap for the combatant commander. After Action Reviews of deployments the past ten years indicate that none of these organizations are manned or equipped with Test Sets, Kits, or Outfits to facilitate modularity as part of Task Organizations. When the Task Force deployed, the unit remaining behind was often crippled. The goal is to design a structure, whether active or reserve, with enough depth to fight the fight as modular components on the joint battlefield.
Common to all heavy and light active divisions throughout the Army, the aviation brigade is the principle aviation organization. The aviation brigade is considered a maneuver brigade, normally designated the 4th brigade in most divisions. It is designed to fight, command, and resource aviation forces. The typical brigade consists of 131 aircraft and has a headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), a cavalry squadron (w/air and ground assets), a command aviation company (CAC), an assault helicopter company (AHC) and one or two attack helicopter battalions (ATKHB). Forward deployed brigades have two Attack Helicopter Battalions. The HHC contains a full staff complement for executing all staff functions to include issuance of plans and orders. The aviation brigade HQs receives priority of aircraft support from the CAC. The brigade's intermediate maintenance falls under the DISCOM.
In the Light Divisions, brigade organizational structure includes an HHC, a reconnaissance squadron, two Assault Helicopter Companies and one ATKHB.
Aviation Brigade-Air Assault Division. A significantly heartier organization in aircraft and organizational structure with four Attack Helicopter Battalions, two AHBs (UH-60), a medium lift aviation battalion (CH-47) with two 16 ship companies, a command aviation battalion, an air reconnaissance squadron, a medical evacuation battalion and an aviation maintenance battalion. Total aircraft is 327: 15 OH, 52 SCT, 84 AH, 32 UH-1, 102 UH-60, 32 CH-47. The 101st Airborne-Air Assault division is the only unit with this organization.
Additional Corps level aviation organizational structures are activated during war with operational assets to include the Corps aviation brigade with two attack helicopter regiments and an aviation group.
The FORSCOM aviation units are aligned with each of the corps based in the Continental United States. Each corps is organized with a Corps Aviation Brigade in addition to the organic divisional aviation assets. The mix of AC and RC aviation units vary with each brigade.
The XVIII Airborne Corps Aviation Brigade, 18th Aviation Brigade, is resourced with two Aviation Groups, 159th Avn Group (Lift) and the 229th Avn Group (Attack). The 159th Avn Group is composed of one general support aviation battalion, one assault helicopter battalion, one light utility helicopter battalion, and one medium lift helicopter battalion from the ARNG. In addition, the Group has an AC command aviation battalion and an air traffic service battalion. The second group, 229th Avn Group, is composed of one ARNG and two AC attack battalions. An AC aviation intermediate maintenance battalion supports the Corps aviation brigade. This represents a mix of 51 percent AC and 49 percent ARNG aviation. Both AC and RC aviation units assigned to the Corps stand ready to execute their power projection requirement in support of worldwide contingencies.
The III Corps Aviation Brigade, 6th Aviation Brigade, consists of the 63d Avn Group (Lift) and the 385th Avn Group (Attack). The 63d Avn Group (Lift) is composed of one command aviation battalion, one general support aviation battalion, one assault helicopter battalion, one light utility helicopter battalion, and one air traffic service battalion from the ARNG. The 385th Avn Group (Attack) has two AC attack battalions (forward deployed to Korea), and one USAR attack battalion. The Corps aviation brigade is supported by one aviation intermediate maintenance battalion from the ARNG. The AC and RC aviation mix is 4 percent AC, 77 percent ARNG, and 19 percent USAR.
The I Corps Aviation Brigade, 66th Aviation Brigade, is structured like the other corps. The aviation groups assigned to the brigade are the 185th Avn Group (Lift) and the 211th Avn Group (Attack). Within the groups all battalions are from the ARNG. There are six AC companies within the groups. The groups are composed of 94 percent ARNG and 6 percent AC aviation units.
Multi-Functional Aviation Brigade (MFAB)As of 22 September 2005 Multi Functional Aviation Brigades (MFAB) became Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB). As the Army goes through transformation, the current Aviation brigades will become Aviation Units of Action (UA). Their configuration will reflect a composite structure that is easily adaptive, expeditionary, able to deploy on short notice, and capable of conducting the entire spectrum of Aviation operations as part of a joint task force. The Army is transitioning from seventeen tactical Aviation brigades in 2004, to eleven Aviation UAs by 2008. The Army is moving rapidly towards the Brigade Unit of Action as the centerpiece of expeditionary warfighting formations. This construct will reduce the number of tactical Aviation brigades from seventeen to eleven Multi-Functional Aviation Brigade (MFAB) Units of Action. The 3rd, 4th, 10th, 101st, and 159th Aviation Brigades were in the process of converting and transformation for these five units was scheduled to be completed no later than the end of FY05. Furthermore, the Aviation brigades associated with the remaining six Army divisions (1st ID, 1st AD, 1st Cavalry, 2nd ID, 82nd Airborne, and 25th ID were projected to transform no later than FY06. An Aviation UA will remain in Europe and in the Republic of South Korea -- both of these units are included in the 11 Multi-Functional Aviation Brigade UA force structure end state. The specific basing location and name of the MFABs remaining in these theaters is under consideration. The reduction in the number of tactical Aviation brigade headquarters from 17 to 11 will reduce Aviation colonel tactical command opportunities; selection to command a tactical Aviation UA will remain keen. However, transformation does not appear to be affecting the CSL command opportunities for the other four categories -- TSS, Institutional, Aviation Logistics, and TSM. By 2005 the US Army was moving into its new plan of transformation and taking a big step by transforming its brigades into multifunction aviation brigades so they have a wider range of capabilities. It's much easier with a uniformed modular capability that everybody understands. It makes planning and execution a lot faster for the employment of the capability. The Army had three different types of aviation brigades. Each of the divisions had an aviation brigade that was intended to provide the tactical aviation support that that division requires. Usually one or two attack helicopter battalions are an assault brigade. An assault brigade is comprised of thirty to fifty UH-60s to lift infantry squads and a couple of command and control helicopters. That's generally what a tactical brigade assigned or organic to a division would have. The Army also had two types of corps level aviation brigades. One is an attack aviation, so it is usually made up of only attack battalions anywhere from 2 to 6. Also there are general support aviation brigades which lean toward being assault type battalions. Although there were only three types of aviation brigades, there were different versions of each of them. No two division aviation brigades were exactly alike in the Army. The MFAB is an attempt to merge the capabilities of all three into one type organization, and it fits the Department of Defense and Army's intent to move towards uniformed modular structures. It will help combatant commanders have a clearer picture of what capabilities are available and how to employ them. The Army's plan is to have two different types of MFABs. One is heavier in attack helicopters and one has lighter attack helicopters. Apart from that difference, they will each have an assault battalion, a general support aviation battalion. The GSAB will have a commanding control company and a medical evacuation company. This is a balance of capabilities built into every MFAB. Previously, commanders might have had to go to three brigades to collect the same capabilities under one command. The brigades did not have this capability. In rare cases one might find all of these capabilities in two brigades. The MFAB is also adopting a maintenance capability similar to the other Army transformation efforts. It will incorporate two levels of maintenance into the brigade, where previously brigades had to look to an outside agency for the second level of support. This action will provide more independence and the capability of providing their own support. With the MFAB, all of the pilots and crews will have a greater understanding of how to employ their specific system with the other aviation systems in the Army. An example would be an organization that has only attack helicopters. They may have a small understanding of how to work with assault, medium lift or any other capabilities. But with the MFAB, they'll have all the capabilities within the same brigade. Not only do they have the opportunity to better engage in training between the types of helicopters, pilots and crews, but they will have the built in capability to form units of actions and specific task forces. Selection for brigade command is a distinct accomplishment. Historically, slightly more than 20 percent of Aviation colonels have been selected to command at the brigade level. These colonels have been selected in accordance with the specific requirements as outlined in the DA Selection Board Memorandum of Instruction (MOI). These requirements are traditionally contained within five categories, four of which are functional or branch specific. A colonel must possess a branch and an area of concentration compatible with the category requirements in order to compete in that category.
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