Aviation Maintenance / By COL K. Todd Royar and Mr. Thomas J. Barthel:There is a famous quote from writer Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” The Army aviation enterprise exists in an environment of constant change and perpetual motion. The methodologies used in developing, acquiring, maintaining and sustaining increasingly more complex aviation systems and the requirements to support those systems are numerous and often duplicative. Who decides their overall accountability or adherence to a common aviation sustainment goal, with specific objectives that make the entire aviation enterprise more efficient and cost effective? How does the Army aviation enterprise focus multiple efforts and finite resources to identify a common, integrated path forward into the future? The answers to the latter questions are found in an integrated framework of aligned strategies that help define our future Army aviation destination which must include an Army Aviation Enterprise Sustainment Strategy (AAESS).
Aviation Soldiers ground handling an AH-64D on the snow-covered flight line.
Integration of Strategies
Army Aviation sustainment is an area within the aviation enterprise that needs improved scope, integrated focus, commonality and unity of effort. We need a specific, known direction driven by common objectives and focused on readiness that will get us to an end-state – together. The Chief of Staff of the Army’s number one priority is Readiness. The ability to achieve, improve and effectively maintain Army aviation readiness depends on identifying which efforts we need to guide that are truly focused on readiness and that meet known, quantifiable and measurable objectives.
The United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) has published two specific strategy documents; the Army Aviation Training Strategy, and the Army Aviation Equipment Modernization Strategy. A third strategy is in development which addresses Aviation leader development. When combined, these documents add granularity and scope for Army aviation stakeholders and will serve to focus our efforts, those of our commercial partners towards a known end-state. To integrate aviation sustainment along one, common axis of advance, the Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) has developed the AAESS (for brevity referred to as the sustainment strategy) that will nest with other aviation branch strategies.
The strategy identifies five lines of effort (LOEs) that will align, synchronize and integrate all our efforts along one main axis that continuously moves the aviation enterprise towards known sustainment objectives and an achievable end-state.
The sustainment strategy construct graphically depicted in Figure 2 (next page) will provide direction to the entire Aviation enterprise and partners keeping sustainment efforts at the same priority level and pace commensurate with Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology’s (ASAALT), Program Executive Office Aviation (PEO AVN), Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and USAACE efforts. It will help integrate multiple sustainment efforts while optimizing finite sustainment resources within the Army Aviation Portfolio; as well as materiel and equipment developed outside the Aviation Portfolio (equipment that is mounted on and/or employed from Army Aviation platforms).
The sustainment strategy spans FY 17-20 (Near-term), FY 21-25 (mid-term), and FY 26 and beyond (far-term). We have incorporated the Doctrine, Organization, Training, materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy (DOTmLPF-P) analysis into the AESS to enable standardized analysis. This analysis and its outcomes/products will be coordinated with the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Army Capabilities Integration Center’s (ARCIC), Capability Development and Integration Directorate (CDID) along each of the five LOEs led by an assigned Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR). The OPR develops actionable plans/recommendations/products to address systemic sustainment issues, ensures modernization plans support sustainment and other important elements within that LOE. These products must then be further developed and communicated to the entire enterprise to ensure integration with other LOE OPR efforts. This construct allows the OPRs to inform other LOE OPRs of impacts/influences that may have cross-organizational ties to a specific element or thread along one or more of the LOEs. The strategy utilizes specific means, ways and ends to accomplish organizational movement to a common end-state.
The “Means” of the sustainment strategy are the allocations of people, time, funds and facilities. The Army must find ways to measure the sustainment status of Aviation weapon systems and better understand systemic sustainment impacts to readiness. The sustainment strategy will help focus our aviation leaders on optimizing the various means by which they support Army Combat Commanders.
The AAESS design consists of topic threads within each LOE that are then developed by subject matter experts with outcomes/actions guided by their respective OPR. Each OPR will use the DOTmLPF-P process to assess issues/topic threads/milestones for measurable outcomes and drive these solutions towards meeting common objectives outlined by the sustainment strategy. The five Sustainment Strategy LOEs are enduring and are briefly defined for the reader’s understanding. No priority or order of importance is assigned or implied. Each LOE is stand-alone in its sustainment focus and all are mutually supporting and do in fact overlap in many areas; integration between LOEs is an important part of this strategy.
Acquisition and Modernization in Support of Sustainment – The OPR is the PEO AVN G-4. The goal of this LOE is to ensure Army aviation systems are designed, procured and modernized to: reduce total life-cycle costs, reduce maintenance man-hour (MMH)/flying hour (FH) costs while improving system readiness. A major effort for this LOE and the OPR is to achieve commonality across our fleets in terms of our parts, support equipment, tools, etc., so we can reduce the overall “bulk” and “iron mountain” construct of our current sustainment support packages to reduce logistics footprint.
Sustainment Capacity and Capability – The OPR is the AMCOM G-5. The goal of this LOE is to maximize the Army aviation enterprise sustainment capabilities, resources and requirements to drive down overall sustainment burden and costs. The OPR will focus on better enterprise synchronization of these efforts to include integrating logistics information systems that will make our sustainment processes more effective and offer an eventual common operating picture for Army aviation to see itself more clearly during all operations. As we become more effective, we can reduce the overall resource requirements, reduce the bulk of our sustainment packages and increase the speed at which we return systems to the fight.
Processes, Practices and Doctrine – The OPR is the USAACE Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD). The goal of this LOE is relevant, clear and adaptive aviation sustainment doctrine that enables decisive action readiness in aviation operations. This OPR will focus on more collaborative processes to improve aviation safety, reliability, availability and maintainability as well as develop feedback mechanisms to help adapt practices and doctrine over time.
Sustainment Leader and Soldier Development – The OPR is the USAACE G-3 Proponency (G-3P). The goal of this LOE is to develop Army Aviation maintenance leaders and Soldiers with requisite knowledge, skills and experience gained through managed training and educational opportunities to improve readiness. The focus for this LOE is ultimately developing more effective, experienced aviation maintenance and logistics leaders by linking testing and certification with promotional opportunities and assignments.
Policy, Regulation and Reporting – The OPR for this LOE is HQDA, Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) G-4. The goal of this LOE is to provide policy and guidance that enables the aviation enterprise stakeholders and partners to sustain aviation system airworthiness and improve readiness. The OPR is focusing on the numerous policy, regulation and reporting requirements currently in use that may promote inefficiencies and multiple interpretations.
The AAESS will focus the Army aviation enterprise on specific aviation sustainment objectives that will increase and optimize readiness and integrate multiple, asynchronous efforts to reach an agreed upon and predictable End-State. The sustainment strategy will use five enduring sustainment objectives. The objectives that each LOE OPR will focus their solutions on are: reduced logistics footprint, reduced soldier burden, improved operational availability, expeditionary aviation force and decreased life cycle costs and are briefly described here:
Reduced Logistics Footprint – Numerous CSAs, from the 20th century and steadily into the 21st century, such as GEN Eric Shinseki, have posited that, “…our heavy forces are too heavy and/ or our light forces lack staying power. Heavy forces must be more strategically deployable and more agile with a smaller logistical footprint, and light forces must be more lethal, survivable and tactically mobile.” Therefore; the aviation sustainment strategy defines this objective as a coordinated, integrated materiel distribution system that moves Army Aviation away from massive, analog, stock-on-hand supply-based inventories to tailored, and mission-required logistics support. Reduced logistics footprint must be designed into each system, with a “helicopter fleet” solution emphasis that has commonality, transportability and interoperability across airframes.
Reduced Soldier Burden – This sustainment strategy objective is defined as allowing the Soldiers and leaders to focus on readiness and mission accomplishment with less focus on other demands that do not enhance mission effectiveness. Focusing on solutions that meet all or most of the stated sustainment strategy objectives will ultimately reduce Soldier Burden.
Improved Operational Availability – In order to improve operational availability across our aviation systems to meet this objective, we need to design our material systems and their support and sustainment infrastructure with the same fidelity as the system design itself from requirement determination through fielding. Also, with the increasing complexity of our aviation systems, system developers need to integrate efforts that effectively drive towards increased capability to repair as far forward as possible as well as the ability of our organic maintainers, depots and support infrastructure to improve operational availability once fielded.
Expeditionary Aviation Force – This sustainment objective is the ability of our aviation fleets, warfighters and support to deploy aviation combat power with adequate resources to enable decisive action anywhere on the globe with speed and agility. However, the Army has never clearly defined what “Expeditionary” really means or how to measure it. To meet this objective requires a coordinated, integrated effort to reduce multiple, single point capability solutions offered by multiple material developers that do not focus on commonality and integration (to reduce redundant system/component logistics footprints and decrease logistic and supply-chain stress). This will result in the increased ability of the sustainment community to deliver optimal, decisive action capability that is not cumbersome to get onto and off the battlefield without huge multi-modal transportation and organic material handling requirements. This strategy advocates the use of common transportability and supportability using “helicopter fleet” solutions, i.e., Sets, Kits, Outfits and Tools (SKOT) that are designed to support multiple Mission Design Series (MDS) fleets vs singularly supporting each MDS with different versions of a similar capability. The net effect of this objective is actual regionally aligned and mission tailored forces that relieve the burden on individual units to move tons of equipment to and from the battlefield to truly enable expeditionary aviation combat forces.
Decreased O&S and Life Cycle Costs – The focus of this objective is to ensure that finite resources needed to sustain our legacy aircraft fleets and support systems (to include support infrastructure) do not increase to the point where they consume the available resources needed to also modernize Army Aviation. The Army Aviation enterprise must recognize the importance of integrated sustainment efforts focused on decreasing overall operations & sustainment and total life cycle costs. The Army Aviation enterprise must reduce costs in order to allow Army Aviation to accomplishment current wartime and contingency missions, while simultaneously identifying and developing potential capabilities that will support the operating environment into which we field our future Army combat aviation aircraft and systems. An example of this objective is seeking true commonality in role, mission, function and capability across the force with “helicopter fleet” solutions (commodity based) vs. multiple, single system solutions that do not benefit all aircraft fleets and require separate development, acquisition, contracting and engineering support, logistics and funding to achieve a common support requirement.
The AAESS includes quarterly reviews and an annual update to a future Aviation Enterprise Sustainment Campaign Plan/Concept of Operations (in development) guided by the LOE OPRs that address changing requirements, capability gaps, and measure the Aviation enterprise sustainment strategy effectiveness. This assessment schedule allows the Aviation enterprise and partners to coordinate and integrate new technology, design, and capability development solutions using known sustainment objectives.
Ultimately the sustainment strategy will help guide the aviation enterprise along one common, integrated sustainment axis to an achievable end-state: fully integrated Army Aviation sustainment and maintenance capabilities supporting Aviation unified land operations leveraging the Army Aviation Enterprise and its partners to provide fiscally sound expeditionary readiness, increased reliability, and aligned with future force development.
COL K. Todd Royar is the chief of staff and Mr. Thomas J. Barthel is an aviation and missile program integrator in the G-5, Strategy Concepts and Plans, of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM) at Redstone Arsenal, AL.