By MG David J. Francis
I would like to start by thanking MG(R) Crosby, Bill Harris, Janis Arena, and the entire AAAA team for the extraordinary effort put into setting the conditions to allow this year’s Mission Solutions Summit to take place. It is long overdue that we bring the Army Aviation community and industry together to forge the future.
CSM Wilson, CW5 Lewis and I are extremely proud of Army Aviation’s incredible performance over this difficult year. As the Army Aviation Community, you served our Nation exceptionally well and we thank you for your continued service as we build toward Army of 2030.
Meeting tomorrow’s challenges will require the entire Aviation Enterprise to transform our training and doctrine to prepare our forces to receive and integrate Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft. Army Aviation units are 76% globally committed across all components (COMPOS). This commitment includes rotational deployments, equipment fielding and modernization, DSCA requirements, response to national disasters and other homeland requirements. Our Aviation teams tackled another record fire season, the most active hurricane season in a generation, and continue to train and deploy through a global pandemic that challenges every aspect of our military and society. Aviation leadership across all COMPOS continue to execute a very demanding mission set with over 11,500 Soldiers deployed across more than 23 countries providing support to ground forces, partners, and agencies daily. Through all of these requirements you continue to focus on our sacred trust with ground force commanders (GFC) and keep Army Aviation the most lethal, agile, and responsive maneuver asset in the Army.
As we continue our transition from counterinsurgency (COIN) operations to large scale combat operations (LSCO), we are continuously updating our existing doctrine in concert with the Army’s foundational field manuals and publications. FM 3.0 is under final review and our team is already updating and preparing FM 3.04 to implement those changes. In order to support the GFC and dominate in LSCO our formations must know and understand our doctrine and how we fight. We are constantly developing concepts of how we will fight and are quickly turning those concepts into doctrine. The integration of air and ground reconnaissance forces is critical during LSCO and we are working with the Maneuver Center to ensure Aviation is nested and incorporated into the update to FM 3.98, Cavalry Operations. The Aviation SOP leveled the bubbles across the enterprise ensuring training, maintaining, and operations were executed to standard. The SOPs are under review to ensure new capabilities like the Spike Non-line of Sight (NLOS) missile and Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems (FTUAS) are onboarded and incorporated into our units.
The Aviation Enterprise is continuing our efforts to synchronize our organizations to meet the Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model (ReARMM) and build the structure required for our Army 2030. With the Division as the Unit of Action, we will tailor our combat aviation brigades (CABs) to their unique division requirements to provide the commander with maximum flexibility and lethality. This new organization will enable our forces to rapidly converge effects at the time and place of our choosing and provide the division commander with multiple maneuver options. An essential element of this new structure is ensuring we set the conditions for the fielding and training of our new Future Vertical Lift (FVL) platforms. Whether this takes form as a Unit Fielding and Training Program (UFTP) type of organization or something else is still being determined to ensure a seamless transition between our enduring and future aircraft.
Current events across the globe reinforce the need to train and prepare for LSCO so we are ready to fight today while building for Army 2030. Leveraging training support packages to build proficiency and capability in terrain flight, hoist, 2800/2900 series tasks remains an important component of the transition to LSCO. Another fundamental change to how we train is further implementation of our new Unit Trainer and Evaluator (UT/E) program. Developing unit trainers that are capable of safely training and evaluating base tasks for our new aviators allows our instructor pilots the ability to get out of the traffic pattern and tactically train our formations. Several CABs received initial training and support from the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization (DES) to stand up their UT/E programs, now we need to continue the momentum and incorporate these trainers into our current operations. The new Emergency Response Methodology (ERM) is the standard across the enterprise and is directly impacting and saving the lives of our crews.
Army Aviation’s Future Vertical Lift aircraft will bring transformational capability to maneuver and is a vital component of how our Divisions will fight in the future. FVL aircraft are bringing increased speed, reach, lethality, and survivability to the battlefield. At the same time, we cannot forget about our enduring fleet and the targeted modernization that ensures it is ready to fight tonight. The Army of 2030 will incorporate the capabilities of our enduring and future fleets and our modernization efforts synchronize both of these forces.
The Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) and continued fieldings of UH-60Vs, AH-64Ev6s, and CH-47F Block IIs keep our enduring fleet LSCO capable and ready. Our partners at the FVL Cross Functional Team (CFT), Program Executive Office (PEO) Aviation, Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), the Aviation Enterprise, and industry team are continuing their phenomenal work to research and develop the near and far-term capabilities necessary in LSCO.
The Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) are going to significantly change the battlefield geometry and provide multiple dilemmas to our adversaries. The FARA ecosystem of Air-Launched Effects (ALE) and Long Range Precision Munitions (LRPM) are game changers and will enable the commander to detect, identify, disrupt, and destroy adversary Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS) networks allowing our maneuver elements to penetrate to the next echelon of enemy forces. The integration of the Spike NLOS missile will greatly increase our stand-off for our attack formations, significantly improving our survivability. The development of a Modular Open System Architecture (MOSA) will reduce time, costs, and requirements to upgrade our systems, ensuring our aircraft remain ready.
FLRAA, paired with enduring platforms, will exploit these maneuver opportunities delivering maneuver forces to destroy tactical command and control, sustainment, and fires elements. The increase in performance that FARA and FLRAA provide the Army Force of 2030 is essential to our ability to fight and win in LSCO. FVL, coupled with our enduring fleet, is survivable, lethal, and affordable.
Leader development is the most important thing we do across the Aviation Enterprise. We are taking giant strides to update and modernize the way we train our leaders, providing them with a more detailed study of doctrine and tactics to better prepare our force for LSCO. Over the past 12 months we holistically redesigned our Warrant Officer Professional Military Education (PME), placing added emphasis on ensuring our aviators remain the tactical and technical experts we need them to be. We revamped the nine-week Aviation Warrant Officer Advanced Course (AWOAC) in favor of a 4-week Advanced Warfighter Skills course similar in scope to the Air Cavalry Leader Course. This course focuses on the tactical planning and employment of aircraft at the platoon and company level. We are also adding a new Warrant Officer ILE Follow-On course for our senior Warrant Officers to prepare them for battalion and brigade positions. This PME restructure also applies to our Instructor Pilots (IPs). The new UT/E program enables our IPs to serve as the primary tactical trainers in our formations by off-loading basic Aircrew Training Program (ATP) tasks and allowing the IPs to get out of the traffic pattern. The future Aviation Tactics Instructor Course (ATIC) will focus on training our IPs to lead the employment of our aircraft as weapon systems on the battlefield.
Branch Officer PME is undergoing updates with our Aviation Captain’s Career Course (AVC3) revision to make sure the instruction is more LSCO-centric while moving away from COIN doctrine and scenarios. Our CPTs will have the opportunity to engage with peers from other branches using a common scenario shared across Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). We are also transitioning to organic battalion fights instead of the multi-function task force structures used in prior courses. The focus on doctrine and planning will greatly increase our future company commanders and battalion/brigade staff officers’ ability to lead in LSCO.
Our Branch recently completed a holistic review of all noncommissioned officer (NCO) professional education courses to assess what is being taught to our junior and mid-level NCOs. All courses are undergoing significant revisions to shift focus from leading during COIN operations to leading in LSCO. The most consequential change to our NCO development is the redesign of the Advanced Leaders Course (ALC). NCOs graduating ALC today are trained in the areas of maintenance management, quality control, and technical inspections. Additionally, they graduate with a greater understanding of the vital role NCOs play in ensuring their unit’s ability to successfully and safely execute their mission.
TRADOC’s number one priority for 2022 is to acquire the right people for our Army. This is a team effort that requires engaged leadership at all levels to not just recruit the right Soldiers but retain the exceptional talent that our branch needs. Over the past year Aviation Branch continued to focus on incentivizing talent across the ranks with targeted bonuses and increase in flight pay. The provisional Warrant Officer program is adding more Aviation experience at the platoon and company level for our new WO1s. Added time in the unit and the cockpit is essential to their growth and development as aviators. Additionally, we increased our throughput at flight school, while adding a 10-year active duty service obligation (ADSO). These steps will ensure we generate the right number of aviators for our Army 2030 while retaining the quality and talent we need to lead our future FVL formations.
Facilities and Policy
There is an ongoing review and assessment of our current and future facilities to ensure we are ready to meet the future requirements of our FVL aircraft. Hangars, airfields, training areas, and ranges may require adjustments to support the full capabilities of our FVL platforms. Greater speed and range along with unique FTUAS platforms will necessitate relooking our current airspace requirements and regulations. Employment of FTUAS and ALE may require unique training areas to take advantage of our systems and training scenarios. We must also look at our networks and ensure we are able to support the cutting edge technology in terms of mission planning, maintenance, and integration with other joint systems. These updates and reviews apply to the operational force and the institutional force including any potential UFTP-like unit locations.
It is an honor to serve as your branch chief and I am very aware that our endeavors would not be possible without the support of our nation, our leadership, and our incredible Families. Army Aviation is prepared and ready to meet the enemy of today while modernizing to meet tomorrow’s challenges. The last two years of Aviation operations represent the safest 2-years in Army Aviation history. This is directly related to engaged leadership, phenomenal maintainers who conduct maintenance to standard, and outstanding aviators who employ their aircraft in a professional and disciplined manner to ensure mission accomplishment. Thank you for your unmatched service and sacrifice.
Finally, please keep all the members of our Aviation Team deployed around the world in your thoughts and prayers.
Above the Best!
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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.