PEO Aviation Command Chief Warrant Officer Update / By CW5 Travis Dixon: As with the rest of the nation, Program Executive Office Aviation has been challenged by the impact of COVID -19 across our operations.
Pilots from the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, train on the newest version of the Apache AH-64 helicopter as part of the certification process to fly the version 6 Apache aircraft./ U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY CH (CPT) JOSHUA HUGHES, 1-229 ARB
The PEO, BG Rob Barrie, responded to the rapidly changing environment and implemented the measures necessary for safe and effective operations in support of our mission to serve Soldiers and our Nation.
While pandemic related constraints have not kept the PEO from continuing to execute its mission, they have impacted the manner in which we get it done. Even as the pandemic holds the nation in its grasp, PEO Aviation successfully continues to design, development, deliver and support advanced aviation capabilities for operational commanders and our allies. One of these successes involves the AH-64E V6.
The Apache V6 is one of PEO Aviation’s efforts supporting Army readiness and modernization. Despite challenges associated with the pandemic, PEO Aviation’s Apache Attack Helicopter Project Management Office (PM Apache) leveraged the team’s unique structure, talents, and culture to set the stage to deliver the newest and most lethal version of the Apache helicopter into the hands of Soldiers.
The PM Apache New Equipment Training Team conducted NET training on the Apache V6 for the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (the Tigersharks) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), WA. The Tigersharks’ first 10 aviators graduated from NET on July 24 and two more classes were conducted to complete the NET.
In order to facilitate the training, PM Apache sent four former AH-64E V6 test aircraft to JBLM. These aircraft were upgraded to V6 from a V4 configuration in order to perform required testing and evaluation. The 1-229th is scheduled to receive 24 AH-64E V6 Apaches by March 2021. The new version of the Apache helicopter will provide the Bayonet Division and I Corps with a more lethal, intelligent, and survivable platform. It includes sensor suite upgrades that provide increased range and lethality, improves tactical navigation and a Cognitive Decision Aiding System to assist in maneuvering to the target and destroying it.
Another PEO Aviation program that adapted to the pandemic in order to prepare Army Aviation for Multi-Domain Operations is the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP).
The T901 ITE is a next generation 3,000 Shaft Horsepower class turbine engine able to provide world-wide operational performance. It will replace the current T700 engine within the Black Hawk and Apache fleets. The ITE provides more power with greater fuel efficiency and it is designed to fit in the current engine bays at a similar weight. It will also serve as the engine for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) – Army Aviation’s #1 modernization priority.
The ITEP successfully achieved its latest major milestone, the Critical Design Review (CDR) utilizing a completely virtual environment. The CDR consisted of several critical design reviews of subsystems and concluded with an overall review. The process was completed while implementing COVID-19 protocols and maximizing the use of Video Teleconferencing. The ITE Product Office hosted VTCs for hundreds of stakeholders beginning in late May with the Engine Control System Components CDR and finished with the capstone Engine System CDR in late July.
This postures ITEP to execute the First Engine To Test (FETT) no later than the fourth quarter of FY21. FETT will kick-off the testing required to complete the Preliminary Flight Rating which is crucial to enable the FARA Competitive Prototypes (FARA CP) to conduct their first flights and initiate the Apache and Black Hawk Developmental Testing. As a critical component to the FARA CP first flight and the Apache and Black Hawk modernization strategy, ITEP is maintaining accelerated targets to ensure alignment with the FARA timeline.
In another COVID era success, the Aviation Ground Support Equipment Product Office, of PM Aviation Mission Systems Architecture, completed fielding of the Aircraft Notebook (ACN) to the fixed wing aircraft fleet. The rotary wing aircraft fleet previously completed fielding of the ACN in 2019.
ACN replaces the Unit Level Logistics System – Aviation (Enhanced) and provides a streamlined user experience, improved record keeping to ensure continued airworthiness, and the ability to view aircraft availability in near real time across the fleet. Since Feb. 2018, nearly 30,000 Soldiers and civilians have been trained to use the ACN and over 9,000 pieces of computer equipment have been converted.
COVID has had a significant impact on our daily lives, both personal and professional. The way we work and live has changed in ways we would not have imagined or anticipated a year ago. We’ve learned new ways to execute the mission and those new ways have become the new standard. The PEO Aviation workforce has rapidly and readily adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic. They have been consistently successful in meeting those challenges and stand ready to complete our mission now and in the future.
CW5 Travis Dixon is the command chief warrant officer for the Program Executive Office Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, AL.