Find a Security Clearance Job!


Aviation unveils life without Comanche

Army News Service

Release Date: 4/5/2004

By Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Triggs

Editor's note: This is the twelfth article in a weekly series on the 17 Army focus areas. This one focuses on "Army Aviation."

WASHINGTON (Army News Service April 5, 2004) - The Army's aviation fleet is undergoing a total overhaul, and the main priority is increasing survivability to protect the aircraft and the Soldiers it carries.

Aviators, crewmen, commanders and the technology community gathered to unfold the Army's aviation transformation plan during the Army Aviation Association of America Annual Convention in Nashville, Tenn., March 24-27.

By 2011, the Army will purchase 903 new aircraft, upgrade the current fleet to be more survivable, lethal and agile and work with the sister services to develop a Joint Multi-Role Helicopter.

During a four-and-a-half month study, members on the Army Aviation Task Force made more than 120 recommendations on how to turn aviation brigades into joint and expeditionary forces that are modular units of action. The total bill comes out to $12.8 billion, the Pentagon official said.

"We're going to ask industry what weapon systems our potential adversaries may have, and we're going to be very innovative in how we deal with those threats," said Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, the Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations, G3.

Out of the recommendations came the idea to develop three new aircraft -- a light utility helicopter, an armored reconnaissance helicopter and a cargo aircraft.

"It would be premature to talk about what the helicopters are going to look like. Right now we're in the capabilities phase," Cody said.

In a concerted effort Fort Rucker, Ala., Training and Doctrine Command and the Headquarters Department of the Army Staff will decide on the capabilities they want, and then let industry meet the niche, Cody said.

A more immediate addition to the aviation ranks will be unmanned aerial vehicles. The Army was given three I-GNAT UAVs as a congressional plus up and right now two are deployed to Iraq.

It's not just about I-GNAT, UAVs in general are a great contribution to the war fighter, the Pentagon official said. They perform reconnaissance and surveillance missions, and are becoming more and more important, the official added.

The Army will spend $390 million toward UAV acceleration. Currently in the Central Command area there are Ravens, which are tactical UAVs used at the platoon level. The smaller UAVs are referred to as Shadow and the larger ones, I-GNAT and Hunter, are used at division and brigade level.

The Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker advised the Aviation Task Force to improve survivability, increase deployability, optimize capabilities and shorten the logistics tail, the Pentagon official said.

Now the aviation field is following the infantry's example of the Stryker by creating a "common cockpit." Like the Stryker, which has 10 variants but same or similar parts, helicopters will share the same hardware and software.

In 2003, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky., implemented their version of "common cockpit" referred to as the Common Avionics Architecture System or CAAS.

By placing common hardware and software in three of the regiment's aircraft, training was simplified and the logistics demands on the unit were reduced, the G3 official said. The open avionics architecture also will make it easier to upgrade the aircraft with third-party vendor software.

The use of CAAS by the conventional Army is one initiative that will be adopted from the Special Operations community, Codysaid.

"We always want the 160th to be the premier aviation force in the Army," Cody said. "We always want them well ahead of the conventional force."

Schoomaker, who has served with both conventional and Special Operations forces, challenges the aviation community to use Special Operations initiatives that can be sustained and resourced, Cody said.

In an interview at Fort Rucker, Schoomaker said that in the future there will be a closer relationship between what's occurring in Special Operations aviation and conventional aviation. Army Aviation in the conventional sense will move to another level, a higher level. At the same time it allows the 160th to move to an even higher-level capability, he added.

The need to purchase and upgrade the current fleet is the reason behind the Comanche termination, officials said. "Had we not terminated the Comanche, I would be absolutely concerned," Cody said. "By 2011 we would have had to cut our aviation fleet by a sizable number."

At the termination of the Comanche, only two aircraft had been built, and $6.9 billion spent since 1983, said the Pentagon official. If the Army had continued to fund the program it would cost $14.6 billion more to purchase 121 aircraft by 2011 and up to $2 billion more to add the survivability equipment that is being added to the rest of the Army's fleet, the official added.

However, the technology that was developed for the Comanche will not be lost, but will be harvested in other Army aviation programs. "We needed a place where we could take the Comanche technology and ensure that it was retained," the Pentagon official said.

The goal is to work through a joint solution with the sister services and decide on a new rotorcraft by 2020 or 2025, the official added. Transformation plans for the aviation field complement the combined arms fight, Cody said. If you take any one weapon system, a Bradley, Abrams or UAV and put it up against an enemy, the enemy will learn to deal with it, the official said. It's a combination of all those weapon systems, the official added.

(Editor's note: The Army's 17 immediate areas of focus include: The Soldier ; The Bench; Combat Training Centers/Battle Command Training Program; Leader Development and Education; Army Aviation; Current to Future Force ;The Network ;Modularity ;Active Component/Reserve Component Balance; Force Stabilization; Actionable Intelligence; Installations as Flagships ; Authorities, Responsibilities, and Accountability; Resource Processes; Strategic Communications ;Joint Expeditionary Army with a Campaign-quality Capability; and Logistics.

To view a brief synopsis of each area, visit The Way Ahead ;Joint Expeditionary Army with a Campaign-quality Capability ; href="">Resources Processes.

Join the mailing list