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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Watch and Wait: U.S. Army Aviation Leadership Won’t Race Into the Breach, Targets Aim Point 2030

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield during the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Army Aviation Association of America Forum (Quad-A) in Nashville. Photo by Andrew Parker

The main aim of U.S. Army Aviation is now to preserve the force for the future, said Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence, during his opening remarks at the 2012 AAAA Forum in Nashville.

The annual gathering of the U.S. Army Aviation command was held against a backdrop of pending defense cuts that are currently set at $470 billion over the next 10 years, but could be higher depending on how America’s politicians finally begin to address the nation’s national debt crisis, currently around $16 trillion.

Crutchfield’s Aim Point 2030 is another campaign plan which its architect believes will be different: “It is in a cloud; it is in the workplace.” By that he meant his command team can work on it: “This is an Army Aviation enterprise campaign plan and it will have measurable output.”

It is an Army coming out of the current fight that will begin training for the next fight, he said, adding that the three most important factors would be to train, sustain and modernize the force. Crutchfield said that the crux of the plan was to:

• sustain and expand the aviation enterprise culture of collaboration,
• ensure unity of effort; speak with one voice,
• embrace a cost culture approach; identify what you need, and
• once the need is defined, lock down the plan and execute it.

“We won’t get everything we want; but we must get what we need,” was his challenge. But how does this play out in terms of the two aviation programs that industry is collectively focused on to take them forward into the future?

Those hoping for innovation regarding the future Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) may have to temper their expectations. There is a steely determination within the Army Aviation leadership that they cannot afford—either financially or in terms of reputation—to make another mistake in the shape of Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche or even the Bell Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter ARH-70 Arapaho, more so now that at any time over the last few decades.

There will be a capability demonstration, not a “fly off,” by all those OEMs who can field a platform when the Army has confirmed its Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), which will be signed very soon, according to Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, PEO Aviation. Those who cannot attend will not be barred from future competitions, he added.

A requirement for manned armed reconnaissance has been identified but it is the level or risk that will be assessed as to whether a “make do” approach would be better than a game-changing platform decision—at this time. Talk of taking an “appetite suppressant” is becoming more prevalent during these types of discussions now. (For a related story, see “Appetite Suppressant,” January 2012 Rotor & Wing, page 4.) The phrase ‘optionally manned’ was not being mentioned.

By Maj. Gen. Crosby’s own admission, the focus has also shifted to Future Vertical Lift (the new descriptor that has replaced Joint Multi Role)—and a medium version of that. [The rumor on the need for the name change is that the word “Joint” is still far too unpalatable for individual services to contemplate].

There will be no rush to innovate. A waiting game needs to be played until the full potential horrors of the military budget frugality becomes known. And there is an election at the end of the year. In short, no rapid decisions concerning future platforms should be expected in 2012.

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