Army Aviation

Army Aviation and Industry: A Legacy of Partnership in Innovation

U.S. Soldiers assigned to 7th Special Forces group and British Rangers assigned to 4th Rangers board a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment CH-47 Chinook as a part of Project Convergence 22 at Fort Irwin, California, Oct. 31, 2022. Project Convergence 22 experimentation incorporates technologies and concepts from all services and from multinational partners, including in the areas of autonomy, augmented reality, tactical communications, advanced manufacturing, unmanned aerial systems and long-range fires.

By MG Michael C. McCurry II

Army Aviation is the best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led Aviation force in the world.

To keep it that way, the Army must continue to transform across the DOTMLPF-P. This transformation requires a cohesive team of experts from across the enterprise that includes our industry partners for material development. It is the efforts and close partnership of the Aviation Center of Excellence, Army Futures Command, Program Managers, and Industry that allows us to deliver the best equipment for our Soldiers. Our collaboration with Industry allows the Army to reduce costs for innovation by sharing risk to deliver capabilities quickly with rapid prototyping and modern procurement processes.

Army Aviation’s history is replete with examples of successful advancements made possible by Industry investment and partnership. Industry’s positive influence in defending our Nation reached its zenith during World War II by enabling victory with massive weapon and materiel production on an unprecedented scale.

Following the Vietnam Conflict, the Army began focusing transformation in the 1980s on the capabilities of the “Big Five:” “Apache,” “Black Hawk,” “Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” “Abrams Main Battle Tank,” and the “Patriot Missile System” to enable the Air-Land Battle operational concept. Once again, the influence of Industry helped achieve the technological advantages we leveraged in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and over the last 30 years to adapt to the demands of continuous combat operations during the Global War on Terrorism. During this era, we modernized our aircraft, including the UH-60M, CH-47F, the AH-64 Longbow, the C-27J Spartan, and multiple unmanned aircraft systems, including the MQ-1 Gray Eagle.

Today, we are transforming the force to meet requirements for the future operational environment. Emerging and advanced technologies are changing the character of war and creativity and innovation is paramount to fight, win, and survive on the battlefield of today and tomorrow. As we see in our observations from the war in Ukraine, everything is a sensor on the battlefield—civilian, military, and commercial technologies are heavily leveraged to detect friendly and enemy activities. Data is seemingly limitless and requires Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to process and analyze information to allow commanders to make decisions at the speed of relevance.

Experimentation Events

Experimentation events such as “EDGE” and “Project Convergence” are mechanisms to actively pursue innovation. They provide scenario-driven opportunities for Soldiers, Army Aviation and Industry: A Legacy of Partnership in Innovation By MG Michael C. McCurry II Army Aviation is the best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led Aviation force in the world. U.S. Soldiers assigned to 7th Special Forces group and British Rangers assigned to 4th Rangers board a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment CH-47 Chinook as a part of Project Convergence 22 at Fort Irwin, California, Oct. 31, 2022. Project Convergence 22 experimentation incorporates technologies and concepts from all services and from multinational partners, including in the areas of autonomy, augmented reality, tactical communications, advanced manufacturing, unmanned aerial systems and long-range fires. ARMY AVIATION Magazine 12 December 31, 2022 Capability Developers, and Industry to work together to employ new concepts and technologies in realistic and challenging operational environments. It also enables us to integrate technology from our Joint and Allied Partners to ensure interoperability in MDO. Through the experimentation of emerging operational concepts and capabilities as a Joint Combined Arms Team, we can capture data to improve technologies, validate concepts, and improve performance across multiple domains by simulating the conditions and challenges we would face in Large Scale Combat Operations. This learning is critical to the success of our transformation efforts and ultimately, to the success of the Joint Combined Arms Team.

Army transformation for Large Scale Combat Operations is the most significant undertaking in 40 years. This effort is critical in maintaining our competitive advantage against any adversary across all domains. Army Aviation will continue to dominate in the lower tier of the air domain as part of the land component while influencing the others. Industry partnership is essential for achieving requirements to put the right equipment and capabilities in our Soldiers’ hands to win at the time and place of our choosing.

Future Vertical Lift

New developments in Future Vertical Lift (FVL) allow the Army and Joint Force to operate from strategic distances required to create and exploit relative advantages in multidomain operations. Science and Technology collaboration between Army Aviation and Industry influences not only materiel transformation but also shapes future requirements for doctrine, training, and sustainment to integrate future systems into the force seamlessly.

Our recent investments in Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (FTUAS) are also rapidly materializing as we plan for early fielding of advanced UAS to select locations over the next year. We are already leveraging the lessons we learned together with Industry Partners during FTUAS technology development to inform the roles and mission requirements of Air-Launched Effects (ALE) to enable the Joint Force to fight and win on the battlefields of tomorrow. AI and ML will improve the lethality of multiple materiel systems by enabling rapid decision-making and reducing reaction times, but this will be an evolution not an overnight development.

AI and ML technologies are maturing to augment or emulate human cognition in the future. These advancements require a “path to autonomy” and close alignment with Science and Technology efforts, and our concepts team is leading the way.

As our Branch forges into the future, we are studying and learning from the heroic achievements of our predecessors that embody our motto—“Above the Best.” The best of Army Aviation is not only those who wear the uniform, but also our Civilians and Contractors who are technological Pioneers and Partners of Industry. Their imagination, passion, and aptitude remain a driving force for change and transformation. Together we will continue to uphold the Sacred Trust that Army Aviation has with the Soldier on the Ground.

Above the Best!

MG Michael C. McCurry II is the Army Aviation branch chief and commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, AL.