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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

U.S. Army Seeks "Balance"

James T. McKenna

It would be a heck of a command and leadership development exercise.

Throw a military unit into action against a diffuse and unconventional foe. Then add a second fight against a similar enemy.

Sustain operations at a pace for which the unit has not ever organized, trained, or budgeted. Restrict relief capabilities so the unit’s warfighting equipment must be refurbished as fast as its personnel can be rested, re-trained, and re-deployed.

Project that the unit will face such foes for at least a decade. Confront it regularly with very credible threats of a third or fourth conflict flaring up at geographically distant points.

Throw in a shifting political environment at home and a budget situation that promises to further restrict equipment and personnel options and intensify bureaucratic infighting over the shrinking slices of that funding pie.

It would be a heck of an exercise. It would be, save for the fact that this is the real-life predicament facing the U.S. Army and that the fate of it and the nation itself may hinge on the ability of military and political leaders to overcome those threats.

Coinciding with that predicament, Army aviation leaders must prepare to guide that branch into the post-Comanche funding era.

The $14 billion or so that would have been devoted to the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche were re-directed to other aircraft programs after its cancellation in February 2004. That reinvestment has enabled Army aviation to transform and modernize itself while satisfying demands of the high operational tempo in Iraq and Afghanistan. The redirected Comanche funds continue to play a key role in modernization.

But those funds now have been largely allocated. Their utility is coming to an end — though the Army got far more use out of them than one might imagine. "It’s amazing how many different times that $14 billion has been reinvested," one top Army leader joked.

The global war on terrorism that the United States launched after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 is now the third longest war in American history.

As Army Secretary Pete Geren has noted, it is surpassed only by the Revolutionary War and Vietnam. Geren points out that the current war is the longest that the United States has fought with an all-volunteer force.

A critical problem is that the current demand for Army forces — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere — exceeds the service’s ability to sustain operations. It also restricts the Army’s ability to provide forces to respond to other contingencies.

As Army officials have said, warfighting equipment is stretched thin, and the gear used in harsh environments like Iraq and Afghanistan is wearing out faster than the service had planned and budgeted.

After six years of war, the Army’s support systems are having trouble keeping up.

Consuming Readiness

"We are consuming our readiness as fast as we build it," said the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George Casey. "The cumulative effect of the last six-plus years of war have left our Army out of balance. [We] are consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future."

The service has 250,000 soldiers deployed to 80 countries today. The National Guard and Army Reserve have had 270,000 and 184,000 members activated for service in the war against global terrorism.

The uncertainty Casey cited stems not from whether the Army will have to fight more, but when and where. Army leaders fully expect the next 10 years will bring "protracted confrontation among state, non-state, and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological objectives," Casey has told Congress.

Without a steady flow of resources, he and other leaders argue, Army aviation will find it hard to continue meeting the demands of current operations and the requirements of future ones.

The Army hasn’t had such a steady flow for a long time.

Since 2002, a rising portion of its funding has come through supplemental appropriations bill and funding for the global war on terrorism.

The reliance on such funding techniques and the gap between the Army’s base budget and its actual cost of operations forces service officials to juggle monies just to get through the budget year.

Use of those techniques also compresses the budget planning cycle and renders much of the Army’s operational funding stream unpredictable and unreliable.

These factors lead to cases in which Army leaders pull funding from programs to fund more urgent needs, betting in the end that they can restore the funding after Congress and the White House iron out a supplemental funding bill.

In addition to stabilizing funding, Army leaders say they must reduce deployment durations.

Mobilization Challenges

Last year, the Pentagon set a policy that limited Reserve unit deployments to 12 months, while the Army set a 15-month deployment tour to regular Army units to make sure those units would have at least a year at their home station between tours. (The Army aims to limit National Guard unit tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to 8-9 months.)

That mobilization policy created challenges for Reserve units upgrading to new aircraft, since their air and ground crews require longer training periods after mobilization to adjust to their new equipment.

The Army is also limited by its inventory of aircraft. When it deploys a National Guard combat aviation brigade, for instance, it must detail to that brigade an AH-64 company from a different combat aviation brigade. That, in turn, reduces the latter brigade’s ability to deploy.

That problem should be eased when the Bell Helicopter ARH-70A Arapaho armed reconnaissance helicopter finally enters service. However, it will be aggravated by the planned increase in end strength. The Army is now authorized to grow to 547,000, the National Guard to 358,200 by 2010, and the Army Reserve to 206,000 by 2013. That troop increase is not going to be matched by an increase in aviation units.

A key advantage should be gained by the Army’s ongoing acceptance and use of unmanned air systems.

More than 400 of these systems have been deployed in the war on terrorism. They have accumulated more than 377,000 combat flight hours, a measure of the Army’s effectiveness in integrating and synchronizing organic, on-demand, multipurpose unmanned systems into the ground forces’ reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition operations.

Army Aviation Looks To Consolidate Modernization Gains

By Ann Roosevelt

The U.S. Army is seeking $5 billion to continue its aviation modernization efforts in its $140.7 billion portion of President Bush’s Fiscal 2009 budget request.

The aviation funds would allow the service to replace the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with Bell’s ARH-70 Arapaho armed reconnaissance helicopter, as well as retire its aging Bell UH-1s and OH-58 Kiowas and replace them with the EADS North America UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter.

Additionally, the Army would continue replacing aging fixed-wing aircraft such as the C-12, C-23 and C-26 with the L-3/Alenia C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft.

In 2004, the Army chose to terminate the next-generation, Boeing/Sikorsky Aircraft RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter. Comanche also was to replace the Kiowa Warriors. The helicopter was expected to be part of the Boeing-SAIC-managed Future Combat Systems — the Army’s major modernization plan — but was deemed too Cold War-oriented for today’s realities.

Sustainment is now the driver for Army aviation, "ensuring we complete getting these products into the aviation formations," Paul Bogosian, program executive officer aviation, said responding to a question from Rotor & Wing late last year. "It may seem, in some respects, less of a challenge, in that we don’t have quite relevant interaction with as many people as we did when we first moved the Comanche investment into the marketplace," Bogosian said. "But now that we’ve done that, we’ve got to sustain the production, the associated training, and stand up the continuous training and support of these new units. That is going to be the challenge for aviation."

For Fiscal 2009, the Army is requesting $439 million to procure 28 ARH-70As. The program had a Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) review scheduled for March 11 that was expected to review a cost overrun last year that violated the Nunn-McCurdy law on containing defense program costs, as well as a second program restructuring. The Army and the Bell team are aiming for a low-rate initial production decision in a few months, officials said.

Also, the Defense Science Board has been tasked to study programs including ARH to determine if commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) acquisition generates program problems because of changes directed by the military after the contract award.

The Army has requested $14 million in Fiscal 2009 for equipment to keep aging OH-58s in service until the ARH-70A becomes available.

The Army also requested $224 million to procure 36 UH-72As. The production rate for that aircraft has now accelerated to three a month, with some aircraft having been delivered ahead of schedule.

The first units equipped with the aircraft are the National Training Center’s Air Ambulance Detachment at Ft. Irwin, Calif., operating the aircraft in a medical evacuation configuration with an external hoist.

Other UH-72As have been delivered to Ft. Eustis/Ft. Monroe, both in southern Virginia. They are in VIP transportation, general support, and airlift/logistic configuration.

The Lakota is a COTS non-developmental item aircraft, based on the Eurocopter EC145. The helicopter is expected to conduct missions in non-combat environments.

The potential $2.6 billion, 10-year, firm, fixed-price contract is expected to allow the Army to procure and field up to 352 aircraft.

Defense Dept. testers at Ft. Irwin found configuration and air conditioning issues during operational test and evaluation, which EADS addressed with the Army.

The company said the aircraft fully met the service’s key performance parameters.

The service has also asked for $1.2 billion for 16 new and 23 remanufactured F-model CH-47 Chinooks, one of the top 10 Army strategic modernization programs in Fiscal 2009, from Boeing in Philadelphia. The Army is currently field the F model.

The Army also requested $1.1 billion for Sikorsky Aircraft UH-60 Black Hawks. The Army is fielding the newest model, the M.

Additionally, the service has requested $637 million for the Boeing AH-64 Apache multi-mission helicopter for upgrades and conversions.

This would include 32 Longbow Block 2 models, Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night-Vision Sensors and other safety and reliability modifications.

Navy Reshuffles Programs to Match Budget Limits

By Geoff Fein

The U.S. Navy deleted four VH-71 presidential helicopters from its Fiscal 2009 budget and is instead requesting an increase of roughly $810 million above its Fiscal 2008 funding for continued research and development funding for the program.

Under the new budget, the first three of the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/Bell Helicopter aircraft would not be procured until Fiscal 2010. That number will jump to four a year for Fiscal 2011, ’12, and ’13, according to Navy budget documents.

Initial operational capability (IOC) for Increment 1 is planned for 2010, according to the Navy.

The VH-71 program is being developed under two separate increments. On Dec. 21, 2007, the Navy sent a letter to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, N.Y. directing it to stop work for 90 days on all activities associated with Increment 2’s Systems Design and Demonstration phase.

The Naval Air Systems Command previously had told Lockheed Martin it was limiting funds for Increment 2 work to $10 million for all of Fiscal 2008. At that time, it requested a plan "to allow for a minimal level of Increment 2 efforts to continue."

"The government saw indicators of ongoing Increment 2 efforts that exceeded the $10 million limit," a Navy official said, and "decided to formally issue the temporary stop-work order to preserve resources for Increment 1."

Increment 1 of the VH-71 program covers four test aircraft and five pilot production ones. Those aircraft are to be delivered through 2009. Increment 1 is intended to answer the urgent need for a presidential helicopter with enhanced performance.

Increment 2 aims for a significant increase in aircraft performance. Its aircraft would feature technical enhancements to provide command and control capability while in flight.

Increment 1 is on track. While the stop-work order on Increment 2 remains in place, the Navy said the White House has decided to proceed with that increment despite the fact that its projected cost has jumped from $4.5 billion to $7.5 billion. (Increment 1’s cost has climbed, too. It is projected to rise to $3.7 billion from $2.3 billion. Increment 2 will require "a substantial redesign" of the basic aircraft, AgustaWestland’s AW101. The Marine Corps, along with Lockheed Martin and Bell is continually looking at the VH-71 program, Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy Marine commandant for programs and resources said.

Given the VH-71’s problems, the Marines recently looked at options with Sikorsky Aircraft’s VH-3D Sea King, the current primary presidential helicopter. Castellaw said the H-3 is tremendously reliable.

The Navy is in the planning stages for a service-life assessment program for both the VH-3D and the Sikorsky VH-60, the other helicopter in the presidential fleet. The service has requested $8 million in its Fiscal 2009 budget to issue a contract for that program.

The Navy’s Fiscal 2009 budget reflects a decision to cut five of Bell’s AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys from what the service had proposed in its Fiscal 2008 budget. The Navy now plans to procure 20 of the aircraft in Fiscal 2009, down from 25.

The Marines wants to see those aircraft put back into the budget, Castellaw said. "We’ll keep pushing to get the numbers back up because the introduction of that aircraft is extremely important."

The Navy would procure 28 AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys in Fiscal 2010 – 11, 26 in Fiscal 2012, and 27 in Fiscal 2013, according to the service’s Fiscal 2009 budget.

"We’ve got a situation where we’re still flying UH-1 Novembers that came in [to service] in the early ’70s," Castellaw said. "During that time, we’ve loaded them up with guns and defensive systems, but they’ve got pretty much the same engine and dynamic components.

"So we need to replace that ship with a much more capable one, the four-bladed UH-1 Yankee," he said. "That program is continuing to move on. We’ve been working closely with Bell to get them back on track. Congress recently, in the baseline, funded the program, but they took five aircraft out."

Under its Fiscal 2008 Global War On Terrorism-funded major acquisitions, the Navy has requested six AH-1Z/UH-1Ys. The Navy has also requested six Sikorsky MH-60R and six -60S under the terrorism fight effort.

In its Fiscal 2009 budget, the Navy has requested funding for 18 MH-60Ss and 27 -60Rs. In the Future Years Defense Plan, the Navy is looking to buy a total of 90 -60Ss. It will look to buy 138 of the armed -60R variants under that future-years plan.

Down the line is Sikorsky’s CH-53K, the replacement for heavy-lift CH-53E. That aircraft is slated to achieve initial operating capability in roughly Fiscal 2015. So far the funding in the baseline has been good for that program, Castellaw said.

The Navy is to take delivery of six CH-53Ks in Fiscal 2013. Some would be research and development-funded aircraft. For Fiscal 2009, the Navy is seeking $570 million in R&D for it, an increase of almost $200 million from the 2008 request.

CSAR Tries To Rise Above Protests

By Jen DiMascio

For the last two years, the U.S. Air Force has watched funding for its largest rotorcraft initiative, the Combat Search and Rescue-X program, get snipped as contractors press on with protests of the initial contract award.

In November 2006, Boeing won the contract to develop its HH-47 tandem-rotor helicopter into the CSAR-X. But competitors Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky Aircraft have prevailed in two rounds of protests with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The service plans to answer the latest protest this summer with a final decision on the program that is expected to be worth up to $15 billion.

The head of the Air Force Materiel Command, Gen. Bruce Carlson, recently lamented the sustained protests, saying the program has lost $800 million and the service will have to re-program money for it in the future.

"I programmed that money. It was budgeted, but I can’t spend it. So where does it go? It goes off to do things like fund the war to or pay other expenses," Carlson said. "I’ve already paid that bill once. I didn’t get to spend it. Somebody else did. Now I’ve got to go back, take money from something else in the Air Force to find that $800 million to buy those airplanes I should have bought last year."

If plans to award the contract this summer stand, the service’s Fiscal 2009 budget request for $305 million in development dollars could remain with the program. About $89 million of that is designated for development of the initial vehicles. Another $74.5 million has been flagged for test vehicle hardware.

The budget request also includes $15 million in advance procurement for the helicopter in Fiscal 2009, but that rises steadily over the next few years: $207.5 million in Fiscal 2010 to $824.3 million in Fiscal 2013.

Some of the funding pulled from CSAR-X over the past two years has been applied to better maintain the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, which CSAR-X is expected to replace.

Last year, the defense appropriations act applied $99 million in CSAR funding to maintain and upgrade the Pave Hawk. In Fiscal 2009, the service is seeking $17.3 million for the Pave Hawk service-life extension program.

The Air Force is supporting the special operations forces version of the Bell Helicopter/Boeing V-22 Osprey, and still is waiting on approval of a $492.5 million request for supplemental funding in Fiscal 2008.

President Bush’s Fiscal 2009 budget seeks $487.2 million to buy the aircraft. The procurement request between Fiscal 2007 and Fiscal 2013 totals $3.9 billion. In terms of development, the service is requesting $18.7 million — most of which would fund upgrades to the initial Special Operations Command variant of the V-22.

The service is also conducting studies on replacement of the rest of its helicopter fleet, which supports missile fields and rescue training, Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the military deputy to the Air Force’s civilian acquisition chief, said recently. But that effort is not a funded program at this point, he said. The service is conducting studies to find out what industry opportunities exist, but it lacks the resources to move it forward, Hoffman said.

Efforts to cooperate on future platforms like the Army-led Joint Heavy Lift aircraft and the Marine Corps Joint Multi-Role helicopter are very premature at this stage, according Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis with the Teal Group. The Army is seeking an external-lift platform; the Marines want greater range and speed. If those services were able to resolve requirements differences between the platforms and fund the efforts, then that platform is likely to be large enough to intrude on the Air Force’s fixed-wing turf, he said.

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