By CourtesyJanuary 18, 2018
by Dr. Kaylene Hughes, Historian
Effective Mar. 1, 1984, the U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM) reestablished the U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command (AVSCOM) as a life cycle materiel command. All missions and activities of the U.S. Army Aviation Research and Development Command (AVRADCOM) and the aviation related missions and activities of the U.S. Army Troop Support and Aviation Materiel Readiness Command (TSARCOM) transferred to the newly restored organization. AVSCOM was also assigned the host command mission at the Goodfellow Federal Center joint headquarters complex, which included the Administrative and Installation Support Activity (AISA) and the St. Louis Area Support Center (SLASC). Effective Mar. 30, 1988, the Department of the Army (DA) redesignated the SLASC as the Charles Melvin Price Support Center (CMPSC).
Literally a coast-to-coast command headquartered in St. Louis, AVSCOM was responsible for the life cycle management of all Army aircraft and related systems, which included technical and professional guidance for the worldwide support of aviation materiel. It provided complete logistical, technical, and administrative support not only to the Army's fielded fleet of about 9,000 (8,500 by 1990) aircraft but also to another 2,500 aircraft operated by non-Army customers.
On Oct. 1, 1985, the command received its new Distinctive Unit Insignia (DUI) from the Institute of Heraldry. Designed by Bonnie Morris, a visual information specialist in the AVSCOM Public Affairs Office, the device featured "a silver Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology, with yellow wings, above a silver bolt of lightning, and surrounded by the four silver stars of the Pegasus constellation, the brightest being the star Pegasus shares with Andromeda and which is represented by a silver disc. The insignia's background is brick red, the color associated with the Transportation Corps. The yellow of Pegasus' wings is one of the colors used to represent Ordnance units. The winged horse is symbolic flight or aviation, the lightning connotes speed and relates to AVSCOM's rapid deployability as well as its air weapons systems."
Two other physical representatives of the restored command's aviation legacy involved an equipment display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and the mounting of a UH-1M Iroquois ("Huey") gunship in front of the AVSCOM Headquarters building in St. Louis. In Jun. 1986, a T-700, the first engine specifically developed for use on a rotary wing aircraft, and the 10-tool kit used for its maintenance became part of the Vertical Flight gallery of the National Air and Space Museum. Three years later, AVSCOM held a dedication ceremony on Apr. 14, 1989 for a Huey gunship flown in Vietnam, which was placed on display as a symbol "of all aircraft, past and present, fielded by the command.... It (was) dedicated to all the men and women of AVSCOM, past and present, who gave their lives and their energies to supporting soldiers and the aircraft they fly."
The command's two primary mission concerns were readiness (immediate) and research and development (eventual).
Research and Development (R&D). The latter aspect of AVSCOM's assigned responsibilities had been managed by AVRADCOM from Jul. 1977 to Mar. 1983. After the command was reestablished, its R&D mission and functions continued to rest on the activities of five organizations clustered under the direction of the AVSCOM Research, Development, and Engineering Center (RDEC). Established on Jun. 16, 1985, the AVSCOM RDEC united the command's widely-dispersed life cycle technology, test, and engineering focal points to strengthen ties between the combat developer, the materiel supplier, and the user. Included under the RDEC organizational umbrella were the:
• Directorate for Advanced Systems, which served as the chief advisor to the AVSCOM Commander on the research, development, test and evaluation of Army aviation systems and subsystems through its assessment and evaluation of aircraft and aircraft threat technologies;
• AVSCOM's four outlying laboratories, three of which adjoined National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) complexes, and which were responsible for most of the physical aviation R&D work;
• Avionics Research and Development Activity (AVRADA) collocated at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where it cooperated with the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) and the Electronics R&D Command (ERADCOM) on joint programs in communication and navigation research and technology. AVRADA also developed ground systems to provide effective vehicular navigation and air traffic control, and in 1989, it became responsible for the proper integration of all aircraft onboard electronics into the automated cockpit;
• Directorate for Engineering, which provided life cycle engineering support for developmental and operational aircraft systems and related material, served as the focal point for aviation life support equipment (ALSE), and issued airworthiness releases, among other things. By 1989, it also oversaw the value engineering and the Department of Defense (DoD) standardization programs at AVSCOM; and
• Aviation Engineering Flight Activity (AEFA) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, which performed all Army aviation flight tests under monitoring by the AVSCOM Engineering Directorate. In 1988, it became a subordinate activity of the AVSCOM RDEC Management Office, responsible for conducting airworthiness tests of the Army's new and modified aircraft as well as fielded systems.
Readiness. The most significant mission change for the reestablished Aviation Systems Command was its resumption of responsibility for the readiness of the Army's aviation systems. Key elements of the readiness mission included the headquarters' service as both a National Inventory Control Point (NICP) and as a National Maintenance Point (NMP) for Army aviation, involving functions such as:
• material management, initially supporting almost 9,000 aircraft and 49,000 line items of supply, along with a depot inventory valued at $2.5 million in 1985. By 1990, the number of supported aircraft had declined to 8,500, but the numbers for stockage and depot inventory value had soared to 122,000 and $4.2 billion, respectively;
• procurement and production actions involving 29,000 contracts totaling over $3.8 billion, as well as managing more than $20 billion in contracts, monitoring the command's assigned Army plant representative offices (ARPOs), and managing all foreign military sales (FMS) contracts. Although the number of individual contracts declined to about 19,000 by 1990, their value increased significantly to $27.6 billion;
• product assurance oversight of aviation product quality, which was guaranteed by establishing reliability, availability, and maintainability (RAM) characteristics in conceptual designs as well as assuming responsibility in 1988 for managing the command's sample data collection, warranty and flight safety parts programs;
• maintenance support by issuing 1,500 to 1,526 technical manuals between 1984 and 1990, managing an annual $400 million overhaul program that escalated by 1989 into a $750 million operation and maintenance program (of which $650 million went to the overhaul or repair of aircraft and components), providing appropriate training for the introduction of new aircraft and associated support items starting in 1988, and furnishing repair parts, tools, facilities, and skilled engineering support to ensure all Army aviation systems with initial provisions and essential maintenance and modernization. By 1990, AVSCOM was handling about 96,000 provisioning transactions annually;
• international logistics oversight of about 170 FMS contracts that grew to 300 by 1989, with a program value that varied from more than $1 billion in 1985 to $3.7 billion in 1989 and falling to $2 billion in 1990. The command was also accountable for the dispatch of about 3,500 to 3,700 aircraft to 45 other nations;
• readiness by acting as the command center for applying logistical concerns to materiel design supportability and sustainability through the use of logistic support analyses, ILS, and the worldwide logistics assistance and readiness analyses programs.
In keeping with DA's commitment to greater cost effectiveness through competition, AVSCOM established a Competition Advocacy and Spares Management Office in 1989 to direct its spare parts program and manage a command-wide effort to open more aviation materiel contracts to competition. One notable example of the command's commitment to savings was the opening of its Depot Engineering and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) Support Office (DERSO) on Jun. 26, 1989. Housed in the AVSCOM Engineering Analysis Facility located at the Depot Systems Command's (DESCOM's) Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD), and modeled after a Vietnam-era disposal program, the new office screened aircraft parts slated for disposal for any salvageable items. Within three months, DERSO had an inventory of about 7,000 parts worth over $2.5 million.
Another noteworthy indicator of AVSCOM's resumed commitment to aviation readiness were the extensive activities of the command's Logistics Assistance Representatives (LARs) whose operations "spanned the globe" in support of Army aircraft, the latter characterized in 1987 as the "Third Largest Air Force" in the world. To help maintain a mission-ready fleet, AVSCOM LARs concentrated on preventing problems and quickly identifying corrective actions. Relying on their ability to communicate with soldiers at all levels and making extensive use of their "tool box" of technical manuals, bulletins, maintenance work orders, and information collected from classroom coursework and exercise training classes, LARs on the flight line worked whenever and wherever needed to meet the ideal of "Warriors' Winged Readiness."
In addition to sustaining Army aviators around the world, AVSCOM LARs also provided emergency logistics support for humanitarian efforts. For example, the command supplied not only necessary parts but logistics assistance for the Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters being used to transport firefighters and equipment deployed to fight devastating forest fires in Montana and Wyoming in 1988. LARs from Fort Lewis, Washington, and Fort Carson, Colorado, spent time onsite providing technical assistance for aircraft involved in the fire fighting and serving as the AVSCOM liaison to the crews flying and maintaining the aircraft. Also in 1988, an AVSCOM LAR represented the command for the first time "in a turnover of equipment to a military unit.... The fielding was a positive action toward continual improvement of the relationship between LARs in the field and the units they support."
On Jul. 15, 1985, AVSCOM's first major reorganization occurred with the establishment of the new Directorate for Readiness, which incorporated elements of the former directorates for system management and force modernization/integrated logistics support (ILS), the former field services activity, as well as the plans division of the former directorate for plans and analysis. Another important organizational addition that same year was the Office of the Project Manager (PM) for the Light Helicopter Family (LHX), which was tasked with developing about 5,000 LHX aircraft in scout-attack and utility variants that were expected to eventually replace the bulk of the Army's then-current 8,500 helicopters.
The most significant change in the command's organizational structure was the creation of the program executive officers (PEOs) as part of the restructuring of the Army's acquisition process that began in 1987. Previously, from 1984 to 1986, AVSCOM had jurisdiction over several project and product managers (PMs), each of whom exercised full authority for planning, directing, and managing the command's assigned aviation systems or multiple subsystems. In addition to PMs for the OH-58D scout, Black Hawk, modernized Chinook, Cobra, and Apache helicopters as well as the LHX, there were PMs for aviation life support, aircraft survivability, and selected intelligence and surveillance equipment.
One of the major thrusts impacting the reorganization of Army acquisition was the Packard commission, which President Ronald Reagan directed be formed in Jul. 1985 to study defense management and organization in its entirety. Another important influence was the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. One of the primary impacts of this act on the Army's organization was the consolidation of the service's research, development, and acquisition efforts.
Under this reorganization, the Under Secretary of the Army was appointed as the Army Acquisition Executive (AAE) to supervise the service acquisition process, establish acquisition policy, approve the program baseline, and designate PEOs and the programs under each PEO's oversight. The PEO was to report directly to the AAE on program matters, ensure that program/project managers were properly resourced, and enforce the program baseline. The project/product managers were to report directly to the PEO and the AAE on all program matters, execute the program within established guidelines, and develop the acquisition strategy and the program baseline for PEO/AAE approval. The PEOs/PMs would accomplish their missions through the use of functional personnel and facilities supplied by the major subordinate commands.
The PEOs instituted in FY 1987, continued to dominate the organizational changes occurring at AVSCOM between 1988 and 1990. Efforts to establish the three initial PEOs-Aviation LHX, Combat Aviation (CA), and Combat Support Aviation (CSA)-were ongoing throughout 1988, with new subordinate offices being created and different PMs transitioning from AVSCOM to the PEOs. On Aug. 4, 1988, the AAE decided to merge the bulk of the CA and CSA PEOs into a single PEO, Aviation, which concentrated all logistics management of all of the Army's major aircraft types under one program executive officer.
On Nov. 15, 1988, the PEO, Aviation stood up, with five major Army aircraft systems assigned to it: Apache, the OH-58D, ALSE, Black Hawk, modernized Chinook, and Cobra. From 1989 to 1990, the PEO, LHX exercised authority over the development program of a new rotary wing aircraft to replace the Army's aging light helicopter fleet. Originally expected to produce 5,000 helicopters in multiple variations, scaled-back projections in 1989 called for the eventual construction of more than 1,000 LHXs in the 1990s. After the LHX PEO reverted to program manager status, the PEO, Aviation became the only such organization collocated with and supported by AVSCOM in 1990.
Working through the original PEOs, AVSCOM supported the various aviation project or product managers that once had been under its jurisdiction. Starting in 1988, however, responsibility for certain programs initially transferred to the PEOs, such as the Light Observation Helicopter Product Manager and the UH-1 PM, returned to the operational control of the AVSCOM Commander. In 1989, the Aviation Ground Support Equipment (AGSE) and Synthetic Flight Trainer Systems (SFTS) also reverted back to AVSCOM's control. That same year, all of the offices were grouped together under the newly established Fielded Aviation Systems Management Office (FASMO).
By 1990, the AVSCOM Directorate for Fielded Aircraft Systems, as FASMO became known, was responsible for aircraft retirement programs, FMS possibilities, and modernization of Army aircraft stock. It also managed the development of fixed base and tactical air traffic control equipment and aviation ground support equipment. Chief among the directorate's aviation assets were more than 2,700 UH-1 Huey "H" and "V" models; the AH-1 Modernized Cobra, which employed missiles, rockets, and cannon; the three fixed wing aircraft-the RV-1D, RC-12, and RU-21-equipped with the Army's airborne signal intelligence and electronic warfare gear; and the light observation combination of OH-58 and OH-6 helicopters, which remained as the "old reliables" for Army aviation battlefield observation and reconnaissance.
In addition, AVSCOM lost four major subordinate elements in 1990. AVSCOM jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Plant Representative Offices (ARPOs) for the McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company, Boeing Helicopters, and Bell Helicopter Textron ended on Jun. 24, 1990, while the AEFA at Edwards Air Force Base transferred to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command on Oct. 1.