AMCOM 2020 / By MG K. Todd Royar: Army Aviation is at a strategic crossroad as we transition to a modernized aviation force that fully supports Multi Domain Operations (MDO) on a near-peer/peer threat, Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) battlefield. It is an exciting time to be part of the development of future Army Aviation systems and developing robust, modernized sustainment solutions that will support both our enduring fleets and the modernized fleet that is Future Vertical Lift (FVL). The Aviation Enterprise is working together to modernize and integrate aviation sustainment solutions that will improve Army Aviation’s support to the future battlefield commander. As our systems become more complex, we need minimize our tooth to tail ratio so that more of our precious resources can be spent on warfighting systems, and less to maintain them. To accomplish this complex modernization of both aviation weapon systems and offer viable, modern sustainment solutions to our Soldiers and leaders, we need to ensure we are all moving together toward the same destination. AMCOM and multiple stakeholders across the aviation enterprise developed an updated Army Aviation Enterprise Sustainment Strategy (AAESS) that is guiding our efforts.
U.S. Army SPC Daniel Nevarez, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer with the California Army National Guard’s Detachment 3, 640th Aviation Support Battalion, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, puts an engine cover on the helicopter after it landed at Redding Municipal Airport, Sept. 8, 2019, in Redding, California, during the Red Bank Fire in Tehama County. Six Cal Guard helicopters were activated to assist state and federal agencies battling a pair of wildfires in the county./ .S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO BY SSGT. CRYSTAL HOUSMAN
The AAESS is currently being embedded and cross-walked into the Army Aviation Modernization Plan, Army Aviation Supporting Concept and other key conceptual documents being developed by the Aviation Branch and TRADOC, as well as within Army Futures Command. The AAESS was developed as a guide to an integrated, aviation sustainment end-state; continually focused on readiness through five enduring objectives: Expeditionary Aviation Force, Reduced Logistics Footprint, Increased Organic Capability, Improved Operational Availability, and Decreased Total Life Cycle Costs. Aviation stakeholders are keeping the five AAESS objectives in focus and integrating them into new system requirement documents, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) system development, Assistant Secretary of the Army Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) Program Manager (PMs) acquisition planning and with our Army Materiel Command (AMC) sustainment organizations. If we properly integrate these efforts, we will deliver effective and affordable aviation logistics, sustainment and materiel readiness – from our installations to the forward tactical edge of the future battlefield. However, actions speak louder than words. Read on to find out what is actually being done.
The first two AAESS objectives, Expeditionary Aviation Force and Reduced Logistics Footprint require us to identify future capability solutions across all new platforms and integrate them across multiple organizations; to include communicating efforts between Capability Developers, Materiel Developers, OEMs and our aviation sustainment organizations. First, we are working with the OEMs to ensure sustainment is at the forefront of their new designs. This includes not only ease of maintenance, but also minimizing the number of tools and materiel to conduct that maintenance. Sustainment Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) and Key System Attributes (KSAs) will reflect the importance of sustainment. Second, we will incorporate advanced manufacturing capabilities into the supply system. While we do not envision advanced manufacturing capability to replace the supply system, it will augment it. To that end, we are publishing the first ever Air-worthiness policy on advanced manufacturing by the end of April to guide not only what Soldiers can do in the field, but also provide guidance to our OEM partners. Third, timely and accurate readiness reporting will be addressed through linkage and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within our Army recognized and approved sustainment Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) digital Common Operating Picture (COP) and data linked Graphical User Interface (GUI) solutions. These efforts must develop and modernize in parallel with our new platforms. These actions are already on-going such as we are actively working to enable disconnected operations with Aircraft Notebook (ACN) and G-Army. The above examples are just a few of the efforts needed to mitigate multiple known aviation sustainment gaps identified by the Aviation Enterprise Synchronization Model (AESM) Sustainment Working Group and are being addressed focusing on the AAESS’ first two objectives.
The third AAESS objective, Increased Organic Capability, must be used to guide new, Total Army aviation weapon system and associated support equipment sustainment solutions. It is imperative that the majority of support is provided organically by our Soldiers to our Depots. We cannot afford to be short-sided and not invest in the intellectual property (IP) needed to repair our systems organically. While we likely cannot afford to buy the IP for every part and system, we need it for critical items to ensure not only that we have multiple sources of supply, but also the surge capacity necessary for LSCO. As an enterprise we realize this, and our requirements documents reflect that need. But just having the IP to do the work is not enough. Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) and other locations must also have the physical ability to do the work. We are already looking forward to ensure that CCAD and other locations have the tooling and skill sets to work on our future systems. Equally important is that we must continually learn and react accordingly as programs develop. Our depots are already utilizing Advanced Manufacturing capability to include advanced Additive Manufacturing technologies. As these processes mature, we must integrate that capability across the entire repair and return system and not just have important, but unique, solutions for a small number of parts. We must integrate across DOD to provide common solutions that we can use organically to improve our supply chain velocity while increasing Supply Availability and supply chain depth. OEM engagements and communications across the enterprise are helping to improve these sustainment gaps as part of this AAESS objective focus.
The fourth AAESS objective, Improved Operational Availability, focuses on measuring and improving the average availability of a system over time. Operational Availability includes all sources that cause downtime: administrative downtime, logistics downtime, Not Mission Capable Supply (NMCS), Not Mission Capable Maintenance (NMCM); it is based upon actual events that happen to a system when used by the warfighter in all environments and conditions. While some of this is simple maintenance management at the unit level, there are systemic things that we are doing to improve readiness.
First, I fundamentally believe that as our new systems increase in capability in reach and lethality, they should also increase in material availability. We partnered with academia to determine if technology is at a point where we can increase material availability without significantly affecting our other parameters. Initial results look promising and based on those results we will likely build higher reliability requirements into our new systems.
Second, while our new systems are critical, we must reduce the maintenance burden on our enduring fleet to the smallest level possible without sacrificing safety. We have the data to make this happen. Through the leadership of PEO Aviation, the CH-47 program is now going through a process known as Maintenance Steering Group – 3 (MSG-3) that will reduce the number of maintenance man hours required. It is already showing results. But the UH and AH systems make up the majority of the fleet and I am committed to implementing a similar process to reduce Soldier maintenance burden for them as well.
Finally, we are working to continually reduce NMCS time by ensuring Soldiers have the parts they need when they need them. We have proposed changing the NMCS goal in AR 700-138 from 10% to 5% for rotary wing platforms. Making that change will hold AMCOM and other sources of supply to a higher standard.
The fifth and final AAESS objective, Decreased Life Cycle Costs, is really an outcome of focused efforts meeting the first four combined AAESS objectives. By using the AAESS as a guide, our Aviation Enterprise stakeholders will keep all four of the previous strategy objectives in mind as we develop, build and field our new aviation systems and their sustainment solutions, resulting in this final objective being met as a condition of meeting the first four objectives. Increased complexity within Army Aviation systems has simultaneously increased the sustainment complexity and cost. Additionally, numerous modifications, block upgrades and unique or special materiel solutions increase overall life cycle costs exponentially. Looking ahead, and assuming continually constrained and fluid future Army budgets, the focus of this objective is to ensure that finite resources can sustain our enduring aircraft fleets and support future systems (to include support infrastructure). The Army Aviation Enterprise must recognize the importance of integrated sustainment efforts focused on decreasing overall Operations and Sustainment (O&S) life cycle costs. The Army Aviation Enterprise must reduce costs in order to allow Army Aviation to accomplish 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.
In closing, collectively, we are at a strategic inflection point within Army Aviation. The future of Army Aviation is ours to properly develop incredibly capable and advanced aviation systems now that can be effectively supported on a future battlefield. The AAESS is our guide to integrate all of our efforts, starting today (from Soldier to OEM) as we plan, design, build, maintain, supply and demilitarize our current and future aviation platforms, support equipment and all their associated sustainment solutions. The future challenges of LSCO and MDO requires the collective Army Aviation Enterprise to modernization, but to do so effectively we must integrate all our efforts much more closely and include the cross-platform integration of our OEM partners to drive innovative materiel and sustainment solutions together to achieve effective, supportable aviation overmatch capabilities to our Army and our Nation.
MG K. Todd Royar is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) at Redstone Arsenal, AL