By Sofia BledsoeNovember 10, 2014
The Army aviation community had the opportunity to collaborate and work together to continue to lean forward to provide the best equipment to the Soldiers at the Army Aviation Association of America's 41st annual Joseph P. Cribbins Symposium at the Von Braun Center on Nov. 5-6.
Several of Army aviation's leaders participated and spoke at the event, which was attended by more than 700 military, Army civilians, support contractors and defense industry partners.
Speakers included retired Gen. Richard Cody, former vice chief of staff for the Army; Maj. Gen. Jim Richardson, Aviation and Missile Command commander; Brig. Gen. Bob Marion, program executive officer for aviation; Brig. Gen. Erik Peterson, commander of the Aviation Special Operations community; Barry Pike, deputy PEO for missiles and space; and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. The program included several government and industry panels that included program managers from PEO Aviation, senior leaders from AMCOM, the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and defense industry senior leadership.
Mayor Tommy Battle of Huntsville who delivered the opening remarks on the second day of the event, thanked AAAA and the aviation community for putting together a symposium that centers on Army aviation. "Army aviation and the work done on Redstone Arsenal and the surrounding communities make this area a very special place," he said.
Cody, the keynote speaker during the first day of the event and who is considered the godfather of Army aviation, delivered a powerful presentation on Geopolitics, emphasizing the emerging threats in the global community. "Our enemies could not have designed a better weapon against us," Cody said, referring to sequestration that looms the defense community. While the U.S. military budget is in decline, Russia's and China's military budget have increased by double digits, Cody noted. "I worry that we may not be the most technologically superior force in the future if we're not careful."
After more than a decade of war, the U.S. may not want to fight again for a long time, "but our enemies want to fight us," he said. "The Taliban know we have a Rolex watch, but they have the time," Cody continued.
Cody said he is worried about the next generation of violence and stressed the need to continue to make our combat encounters an unfair fight for the enemy. "The stuff we fought with in the last 12 years is what we're going to fight with five years from now," he said. In the meantime, other countries such as Russia and China have invested a lot of money and effort over the last decade to try and defeat those capabilities.
"What we have today is this mismatch," he said, referring to the U.S.'s new focus in the Pacific and he pointed out that challenges remain the Middle East. "I liken it to a football team. You're out there and the coach is on the sideline, and the owner's up in the booth. The quarterback moves over before he calls the play up to the line and looks over at the enemy and says, 'My coach says I don't have to run the ball today; we're just going to pass. And oh by the way, my owner says we're leaving the field after the third quarter.' This is where we're at today, and I think all of us should be concerned of where things are going."
Peterson, who was the keynote speaker during the second day of the event, reflected on Army aviation modernization and sustainment over the past decade. "Army aviation has been and was at peak demand," he said. He described the operational tempo during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom as "grueling" both for deployed and on station units. Through all the challenges, Army aviation was "inarguably at the peak of relevance and contribution," Peterson said.
He highlighted the significant accomplishments of the aviation community, especially in its ability to modernize aviation weapon systems while being in combat in two simultaneous wars. Among the important accomplishments were enhanced capabilities in survivability, improved countermeasures, enhanced digitization and adaptation of maintenance and sustainment systems. Army aviation modernized all the main platforms and fielded the AH-64E, UH-60 and HH-60M Black Hawk, CH-47F and MH-47G Chinook, and injected manned-unmanned teaming into the battlefield with the rise of unmanned aircraft systems. "These all manifest intangible capability that enabled mission success in the battlefield," Peterson said.
While Army aviation also enjoyed robust funding during that time, something else pulled everybody together, he noted. "Teamwork and collegiality prevailed across the Army aviation enterprise, and commanders were able to have tremendous reach-back of support even while in combat.
"Now we are confronted with the challenge of maintaining and sustaining our platforms and weapon systems. Army aviation will remain an indispensible component of strategic landpower, but we must recognize the implications of fiscal uncertainty and austerity," Peterson said.
U.S. adversaries will continue to employ asymmetric operations and tactics against U.S. interests, Peterson noted. Of looming concern is the FY '16 budget control act and sequestration which will leave the Army significantly less funding than what will be required to accomplish missions.
"We need to retain and refine our ability to contribute and conduct operations through the entire spectrum of conflict, and across that spectrum, we must strive as best as we can to retain our comparative advantage -- overmatch if you will -- in the capability of our Soldiers, units and equipment," Peterson said. "We need to be more agile, scalable and expeditionary."
Peterson also recognized the significant improvements and continued efforts made by the aviation community that has contributed increased capability to the Soldier. He highlighted the improvements made in the F model Chinooks with the Common Avionics Architecture System cockpits, which has also increased reliability and survivability of aviation components.
He stressed the need for improvements in range, speed, payload and vertical maneuverability; deployability, compatibility, interoperability, the ability to maneuver through degraded visual environments, cognitive and intelligent decision aides; and lightweight precision munitions. On mission command, Peterson stressed the need for Joint Force Networking (ground to air and air to ground), enhanced multi-INT payloads, common operating picture, en route collaboration and connectivity. "I believe the Improved Turbine Engine Program is an example of moving us in the right direction," Peterson said. Finally, he highlighted the need for increased reliability, survivability and sustainability of aviation components and suggested an increasing demand on open architecture.
"There you have it. If it were easy, anyone can do it. This is hard stuff, and this group does hard stuff," Peterson said. "The challenges that we face together are many, but equal are the opportunity. I believe that Army aviation exists to support the maneuver commander and our ground forces … every day with incredible skill and determination."
He posed a challenge to the aviation community, stating: "Ask yourself, what have I done for them today, and what am I going to do for them tomorrow."