Special Focus – TRADOC Capability Manager Update —By COL Erskine R. Bentley II
The TRADOC Capability Manager for Lift (TCM-Lift) is the user advocate for Army Aviation capabilities that enable our Aviation formations to support the ground commander with: air assault and air movement of troops, equipment and supplies; airborne medical evacuation; airborne command and control; intra-theater air movement of key leaders; and sustainment and support to law enforcement and other government agencies across the United States and throughout the world. We do this by closely coordinating with the Aviation units throughout the Army, sister Services and our counterpart project management offices (PMO) within the Program Executive Office for Aviation at Redstone Arsenal, AL. The Aviation weapon systems portfolio that we represent includes the UH-60 Black Hawk, the CH-47 Chinook, the UH-72 Lakota, the Mi-17, and all the Army’s fixed wing aircraft. We are also leading the capabilities development efforts for Army Aviation on the Improved Turbine Engine and the Future Vertical Lift programs.
The TRADOC Capability Manager-Lift team at the Army Aviation Museum, Ft. Rucker, AL, January 2014.
TCM-Lift has several key projects that we are actively working on that will have lasting impacts on Army Aviation. The first that will greatly improve the Army’s largest fleet of helicopters – the UH-60 Black Hawk – will be the digitization of the analog aircraft in our formations. The objective size of the Black Hawk fleet is 2,135 Black Hawks with only 1,375 newly manufactured as UH-60M “Mike” models. The goal of the UH-60L Digital program is to recapitalize the remaining 760 analog Black Hawks and while doing so, add capability so they match the digital performance of the UH-60M. Other improvements to the Black Hawk fleet include upgrades to capture new national and international airspace system requirements that DoD groups together by the acronym GATM, or global air traffic management. We are also working to improve operations in a Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) on both the UH-60 Black Hawk as well as the CH-47F Chinook.
Since the first heavy lift company’s initial operational capability (IOC) that was achieved in 2007, the Army’s CH-47F has been one of the success stories of the modernized Army Aviation fleet. The platform has significantly expanded the capabilities of the Army’s cargo helicopter fleet and allows the completion of missions not otherwise possible with the earlier CH-47D. To ensure the continued relevance of the CH-47F on the changing battlefield, TCM Lift and Cargo Helicopter PMO have developed a series of proposed modifications that will ensure aircraft performance and capabilities continue to meet emerging Army needs. These modifications grouped into a block referred to as CH-47F Block II and resourced within the existing program budget and buys back over 2,000 pounds in performance. The Block II Chinook will be a 54,000 pound gross weight aircraft with a strengthened airframe, an advanced rotor blade, a new twin, single tank fuel system, improved drive train, flight controls, avionics, and electrical systems. Current plans call for a CH-47F Block II test aircraft to fly in late 2017 or early 2018 with a potential initial operational capability in the 2020 timeframe.
On the fixed wing front, TCM-Lift has continued to champion a capability document that will allow the Army to procure a fixed wing utility aircraft replacement for the fleet of aircraft comprised mostly of C-12’s and a small number of C-26 and UC-35 aircraft. These aircraft support our theater aviation battalions in fourteen companies of eight aircraft. As each C-12 in our fixed wing fleet becomes more expensive to sustain than to replace, the Army will have a capability document that defines the requirement so our Army Acquisition Corps can procure a newly manufactured replacement aircraft.
The Improved Turbine Engine (ITE) will replace all the T-701 engines currently fielded throughout the Black Hawk and Apache fleets. The increasing engine power (up to roughly 3,000 shaft horsepower) will enable AH-64Es, HH-60s, and UH-60s to meet all of their combat configured mission loads at the most severe environmental conditions for altitude and temperature. The engine’s modern design will also achieve significant fuel savings and improved time on wing as compared to the current T-701D engine. ITE is scheduled for a Milestone A, program initiation decision later this year.
TCM Lift is newly chartered as the Army lead for developing the capability requirement for Future Vertical Lift (FVL) – which defines the Department of Defense’s next generation family of Joint vertical lift aircraft. Capable of enroute speeds and distances over two times greater than the majority of the current vertical lift fleet, the Joint FVL fleet of light, medium and heavy lift aircraft will create revolutionary advances across the Joint battlefield. Closely linked to the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstrator program, JMR/FVL will conduct demonstration flights in 2017 and is scheduled to begin production as early as 2030.
TCM-Lift is made up of a small team of twenty nine officers, non-commissioned officers, DA Civilians and contractors who dedicate themselves everyday toward the mission of providing the Aviation Warfighter what he or she needs to win our Nation’s wars.
COL Erskine R. Bentley II, is the TRADOC Capability Manager for Lift, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL.