Program Executive Officer / By BG Robert L. Marion: The Program Executive Office-Aviation (PEO AVN) and the Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) partner daily at the tactical and strategic level.
Attendees at the Aviation Senior Leader Dinner in the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, AL on Feb 3. / AAPI PHOTO BY BILL HARRIS
AMCOM personnel are embedded (matrixed) within PEO Aviation’s program management organizations, performing key sustainment functions, and providing logistics and engineering expertise. In addition to providing a full complement of sustainment functions for our aircraft, AMCOM holds the authority for independent oversight of airworthiness, and assesses each system’s readiness for fielding through the Materiel Release process. But the relationship between our organizations extends beyond the day-to-day support of aircraft and systems. Nothing better illustrates this broader relationship than the UH-60V Black Hawk Program.
At 2,135 total airframes, the Black Hawk is our largest fleet of rotary wing aircraft. With Future Vertical Lift (FVL) scheduled to begin fielding in the 2030s, Black Hawks are expected to remain on our inventory until 2075. The Army Acquisition Objective (AAO) for the new production UH-60M is 1,375 airframes, leaving 760 legacy UH-60L airframes which do not meet all approved threshold requirements, and also present significant obsolescence challenges. This leaves Army Aviation with some difficult choices: either reallocate billions of dollars from other programs to procure a pure fleet of UH-60Ms, pay to sustain legacy UH-60Ls for decades, or develop an alternative program.
Plans for a digitized UH-60L were already on the drawing board, but the fiscal realities of the modernization budget lead to the inception of the UH-60V program as we know it today. What makes the UH-60V program unique is how the program leverages Operations and Maintenance funding AMCOM had earmarked to conduct recapitalization (RECAP) of UH-60L Black Hawk aircraft, and augments it with research, development, test, and evaluation (RDTE) and procurement funding allocated to PEO AVN. Through combining recapitalization and modernization activities, and pooling the associated resources, AMCOM and PEO AVN can deliver a modernized UH-60V that meets our user’s requirements. By performing concurrent upgrade of UH-60L model aircraft to the UH-60V configuration as they go through RECAP, the Army avoids significant labor costs by conducting disassembly, inspection and rebuild of the aircraft once, instead of twice.
The UH-60V program showcases the capability of two other Government organizations: the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) and Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD). The first three prototype UH-60Vs will be built by the AMRDEC’s Prototype Integration Facility (PIF). The validation and verification of the design, and subsequent aircraft production, will be performed at CCAD. The acquisition strategy includes Government ownership of the technical data package (TDP) to enable the Army to complete the procurement of hardware kits required to produce the UH-60V.
Capability and Growth Potential
The resulting 760 UH-60V aircraft will possess avionics commonality with the UH-60M, addressing all mission equipment capability gaps through upgrade of the cockpit and avionics architecture from analog to digital. The digital architecture provides a framework for improved interoperability and situational awareness, and the means to incorporate future networking communications capability, like the Small Airborne Networking Radio (SANR). Finally, by incorporating RECAP, the program addresses the physical condition of an aging workhorse. RECAP truly extends the service life of these aircraft. Through application of the Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) developed by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Sikorsky, a completed airframe RECAP provides 10 years of additional service life.
Through pooling personnel and financial resources in times of dwindling budgets, the UH-60V program demonstrates innovation in thinking and process. This program promises to deliver a significant improvement in capability and represents what is possible within the Aviation Materiel Enterprise.
BG Robert L. Marion is the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer for Aviation located at Redstone Arsenal, AL.