Aviation Survivability / By CW5 Christopher A. Johnson: Evolution is required for today’s Army Aviation enterprise to succeed in the contemporary spectrum of conflict. In order to maintain precision support of U.S. Army ground forces, aviation elements must remain agile, adaptable, and adept. Hybrid warfare and the global security environment have reintroduced “Decisive Action” challenges to the Aviation enterprise. These include providing reach, protection, and lethality dominance to the nation’s premier land-warfare operators. To meet these demands, Army Aviation and the Survivability track will need to transform organizational roles; refocus combat readiness programs; pursue advanced acquisition technologies; and improve professional military education (PME).
Enabling Decisive Action with the Survivability Triad (Tactics, Countermeasures, and ASE) / U.S. ARMY PHOTOS
In order to enable today’s Decisive Action operations, the Tactical Operations (TACOPS) track returns to the challenge of refocusing Army combat aviation on warfighting skill sets. The branch currently concentrates on survivability management, tactics, aircraft survivability equipment (ASE) training, mission planning, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration, airspace deconfliction, and personnel recovery. These focus areas provide relevant, credible, and mission focused aviation leadership that is critical in today’s security environment. Most importantly, enhanced TACOPS leader development and culture-change has been instituted in doctrine and PME courses to build unit-trainer capabilities that will provide commander’s increased effectiveness and generate combat aviation power. This will improve combat aviation brigade (CAB) capabilities to fight, survive, and win against peer or near peer adversaries while supporting the ground forces in a contested environment specifically involving integrated air defense systems (IADS).
The Tactical Operations Officer track has embraced this survivability mission to ensure Army Aviation mission accomplishment on the digital battlefield. This engagement and new opportunities continue to require adaptive leadership and functional investments by warrant officers across the enterprise. The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) has recognized this point and instituted a TACOPS officer PME redesign to assist in building this expertise and understanding. Survivability is also focusing on intelligence, space, cyber electromagnetic activities, and the joint communities to further define the overall security environment and optimize current capabilities.
In addition, the TACOPS PME redesign is instituting advanced maneuvers, Anti Access Area Denial (A2AD) mission planning, and tactical leadership to enable precision air-ground operations, in support of U.S. ground forces. Complementing these initiatives will require modernizing aviation capabilities to enhance U.S. forces interoperability, precision strike, degraded operations, and air dominance. These advancements will assure success in defeating the Decisive Action threat and minimize the fiscal challenges to maintain readiness, standardization, and capabilities throughout the enterprise.
To meet these challenges the DOTD Survivability branch has initiated several areas of advancements. The first area is instituting changes to mission survivability in AR 95-1, The Aviation Regulation, TC 3-04.9 The Commander’s Survivability Manual, and TC 3-04.11, The Commander’s Aircrew Training program, that provide a detailed roadmap for ASE phased training into the Commander’s aircrew training program. To meet the training needed for our aircrews to fight and survive in a contested air environment, the branch has implemented tailored survivability materials for the commander to use. These structured building blocks of progression will take part on several tiered levels. At the individual level, Computer Based ASE Training-Operator and Classified (CBAT-O / CBAT-C) enhance training unit aircrews on the basics of ASE operations and employment. Future updates will move CBAT-O to the Army’s online learning database (ALMS) for easier access and tracking. Additionally, upcoming initiatives will expand to bring aviation maintainers into the CBAT program. CBAT-Maintainer will provide the training for avionics and support personnel on the tasks required to troubleshoot and maintain all types of ASE. A virtual ASE module will let supervisors set faults and maintainers will be able to run through step by step maintenance procedures on virtual ASE equipment.
Mission Focused Training
Currently at the crew and collective level, the only way to train against threat systems is either in the Mission, Design, Series (MDS) aircraft simulators or in the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT). Both of these systems have benefits and challenges when it comes to effective threat scenario-based ASE training. Recognizing the most preferred method is to train in the aircraft; however with the limits on ASE equipment and lack of home station multispectral emitters this is currently not possible. Several acquisition organizations are working to provide an ASE emulator and virtual threat training software that will promote advanced tactical scenarios involving survivability. As ASE training becomes more prevalent at home station, units will need a more robust capability to evaluate themselves against mission-tailored threats. This is currently a scheduled upgrade to combined training centers (CTCs) Opposing Forces (OPFOR) air defense capabilities. Presently the Man-portable Aircraft Survivability Trainer (MAST) has been a success at replicating (Infrared) IR Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The next proposed improvements will field a new mobile Radar Frequency (RF) threat system which will replicate legacy to current RF threats. This emitter system will have the same attributes as the modern RF surface to air missile (SAM) systems and allow our aircrews to fight against live emitters in an IADS environment. By providing digital threats in any battle space and embedded training on the aircraft, aircrews will be able to maximize proficiency and effectively train multi-ship tactics and increase survivability readiness.
In addition, over the last decade Army Aviation has enjoyed air superiority and freedom of maneuver in the area of operations with little to no deliberate mission planning. The forthcoming ATP 3-04.2, Army Aviation Combat Tactics and Survivability manual has also identified additional gaps in the ways that Army aviators conduct mission analysis and planning to address the complexity of the emerging threats. To reinvigorate these atrophied skills, the aviation branch is working solutions to rectify these both in the institutional training environment and targeted software solutions. By utilizing these improved technology tools and the ability to synchronize with the joint community will provide the warfighter the optimal and timely situational awareness. To begin this process, the Survivability Branch has participated in final testing for XPLAN 7.6.2 update for full material release by first quarter of fiscal year 2017 (FY 17). USAACE’s collaboration with the AMPS Product Manager (APM) has also instituted a new training capability, the AMPS Academy which provides a new training capability of tailored training for the Aviation warfighter on various mission planning, networking, and administration of the systems. The unit funded training will be scheduled by the AMPS Help desk and conducted monthly in Huntsville, Alabama. Upcoming training dates and additional information are available at: https://asako.peoavn.army.mil/sites/NOMP/AMPS/AMPC/AMPS/SitePages/Home.aspx. In addition, as the force structure adjusts to the future manning forecasts, the Survivability Branch recommends that units cross-train and ensure core areas of mission planning expertise resides with all assigned aviators to enable critical decisive action capability; this maximizes support in accordance with FM 3-04, Army Aviation, seven core competencies to U.S. ground forces.
Another key area of focus is the full implementation and survivability integration of UAS capabilities into the enterprise. UAS capability and utilization continues to evolve with increasing task and mission responsibilities outside of the original scope. In order to meet current requirements for timely air-ground support, this will require future tactical system investments to ensure rapid deployability. Multiple interchangeable payloads will be required to provide versatility in accomplishing the constantly changing mission requirements. The UAS mission will continue to evolve with time, deployments, and required ground force mission support. Currently Army UAS systems are focused on reconnaissance, surveillance, electronic warfare (EW), target interdiction, and communications/data relay. Continued upgrades to survivability and mission command systems, EW reconnaissance, and munitions may provide additional robust A2AD capabilities. The most significant UAS issue today is lack of realistic training. UAS Operators skills have decremented to Counter-Insurgency (COIN) surveillance support thus limiting commander’s options. More emphasis needs to be placed on target identification threat analysis, and proper reconnaissance procedures. These focused investments will be required to properly integrate UAS combat knowledge and skills. Lastly, performance improvements will need to be developed to equip UAS systems with effective survivability tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to provide optimized capability.
Personnel Recovery (PR) is another critical aviation area that has made progress with emerging initiatives on Army critical tasks designation, doctrinal improvements, resourcing, and readiness opportunities. The first initiative is to ensure the TACOPS community continues to shape expertise that will result in subject matter experts (SME) for Army Aviation. The TACOPS course provides a basic PR foundation, however, the lack of advanced training and unit integration has demonstrated a need to have a greater level of knowledge. The Survivability Branch recommends command support and unit-funded resourcing for leader development and course attendance to Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) courses (e.g., SERE-C, PR 301, PR 303, and PR 297) to ensure maximum PR depth, expertise, and combat theater entry requirements readiness. Secondly, as the mission evolves for Army Aviation, the branch will continue to emphasize developing mission focused doctrine and improving PR synchronization with the Joint community. DOTD has been actively participating in the Air Land Sea Application (ALSA) Center working group developing a Multi-Service Tactics, Technique, and Procedures (MTTP) publication for joint PR. In addition, the branch has been coordinating with the Forces Command (FORSCOM) G/3/5/7 PR representative as they continue to refine and develop their PR/ Situational Training Exercise (STX) training, with a goal of instructing assigned PR officers on how to establish tailored programs that generate readiness in their units. Furthermore, the Survivability Branch is currently contributing in the Army PR Proponent Office’s Critical Task Site Selection Board which is working to select mandatory tasks to be completed by all soldiers.
Quick Reaction Test
Recently, USAACE enterprise has begun a TTP development program with the goal of enhancing CAB and Joint rotary wing aviation capabilities. The branch rewrite of the ATP 3-04.2 tactics manual highlighted this critical requirement to address survivability against emerging threats. The FY 17 Quick Reaction Test (QRT) process will potentially facilitate an avenue to assist the Aviation Branch to effectively validate and verify current operational ASE suites and tactics against emerging threats. The first planned operational assessment initiative will optimize the ability of the rotary wing community to employ a combination of aircraft survivability equipment, countermeasures, and defensive maneuvers to reduce vulnerability of aircrews against adversary IADS/ A2AD problem sets. This testing will provide objective assessments for fielding of precision aviation capabilities and will further define processes and validate requirements needed for enhancing future penetration of denied areas by air, sea, or land, including the use of advanced technologies.
In summary, this update demonstrates that the TACOPS track and the Survivability community continue to be a critical mission enabler for Army Aviation where it projects U.S. ground forces anywhere, anytime, and in any environment for unprecedented mission success. The goal of this article was to provide updates, insights, and recommendations for consideration by the Army Aviation leadership, CAB personnel, and the community of interest in the shaping of the future aviation force. In closing, the Survivability Branch office is always searching for qualified and interested personnel. If you feel like you have the experience and ability to contribute to the Aviation Branch’s survivability areas of concentration then contact the DOTD Survivability office for packet consideration.
Above the best!
CW5 Christopher A. Johnson is the chief of the Survivability Branch, Directorate of Training and Doctrine, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, AL. He is a former Regiment TACOPS Officer, and Instructor pilot with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) flying the MH-47E & G. Additional major contributors to this article were: CW4 Dennis Boothe, CW4 Eric Christian, CW3 Greg Lawrence, and SFC Joseph Armer.