Army Aviation

Mastering the Fundamentals

Branch Chief’s Corner / By MG David J. Francis: The adversaries we face in Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) will employ multiple layers of standoff across all domains in an attempt to disrupt our operations in competition as well as in conflict.

This change of strategy requires a counter stratagem on our part, which is what the concept of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) provides. Central to Army Aviation within MDO is the concept of independent maneuver. This entails continuing operations in a contested environment for an extended period without continuous support from higher echelons while retaining the ability to converge capabilities rapidly at the time and place of our choosing to present multiple dilemmas to our adversaries.

U.S. Army SGT Darrel Rueger, mechanic assigned to the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, checks an engine while performing 40-hour maintenance on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter staged on Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, Jan. 31, 2019. Chièvres Air Base served as an intermediate staging area before the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade deploys to Germany, Poland, Latvia and Romania for nine months to train with NATO partners in support of Atlantic Resolve. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY PIERRE-ETIENNE COURTEJOIE, VISUAL INFO SPECIALIST

One of the significant factors of independent maneuver for Army Aviation is the manner in which we maintain and sustain our aircraft during the execution of this operational construct. The solution to maintaining our aircraft is not simple, but it is relatively straight forward and achievable – by mastering the fundamentals.

Over the last decade plus, the nature of the fight and the OPTEMPO drove us to rely heavily upon contract maintenance, which was feasible for counterinsurgency operations. That same approach is not compatible with independent maneuver at the battalion and brigade level. Our doctrinal definition of Expeditionary Aviation Operations, however, is well-suited for that mission. Within our definition are two vital departure points for leaders and Soldiers to grasp regarding maintenance and sustainment. First is that we must be prepared to operate with limited external resupply and sustainment for up to a few weeks at a flight hour rate per month per airframe double that of normal training rates. Second, we must be prepared to move our formations at a minimum of every few days, and at worst case multiple times a day – depending on the nature of the threat. In this scenario it is incumbent upon leaders and Soldiers that they know, and are capable of upholding, maintenance standards in this austere and expeditionary environment.

The Soldiers that are graduating today from the 128th Aviation Brigade at Ft. Eustis, VA will be the platoon sergeants and experienced aviation maintenance techs across our formations in 2028 when we are MDO capable and they will be the sergeants major and brigade/division maintenance officers in 2035 when we are MDO ready. These are the Soldiers that must understand the ramifications of fighting in LSCO, and must help shape that capability.

With the intent of providing clarity on a common way forward for these Soldiers, and all Soldiers across Aviation, the branch is producing an SOP that will streamline maintenance standards across the force. Additionally, our requirements for future vertical lift must ensure that maintainability and sustainability are incorporated to increase time between major maintenance actions. Based on how we expect to conduct operations in LSCO, this will be an essential operational requirement.

2028 is right around the corner. The time is now to ensure we build those invaluable foundational maintenance skills for leaders and Soldiers across the Aviation branch so that in 2028 and 2035 we continue to provide the Army an asymmetric advantage in Large Scale Combat Operations.
Above the Best!

 MG David J. Francis is the Army Aviation branch chief and commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, AL.