A crowd of more than 350 attendees including Aviation industry professionals and members of the Army Aviation community participated in the annual Aviation Industry Days event on Fort Rucker July 24-25.

With more than 40 vendors displaying their wares at The Landing, and a two-day lineup of informative speaker and panel sessions focused on lethality in Multi-Domain Operations, the event sought to promote dialogue between industry and Army Aviation capability developers.

Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, commanding general, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, welcomed participants and thanked industry for their participation.

"The partnership with industry is absolutely incredible," Francis said. "The investments from your corporations and companies that make some of the things that we're seeing today a reality are truly amazing."

Francis said his goals for the event were transparency, shared understanding, and also an opportunity to hear from industry.

He explained the need for fundamental change, from the incremental upgrades to existing equipment to realizing leap-ahead technology, as the Army prepares to be contested in all domains in the future.

"What we have to do is change, because the consequences of not changing could cause us to lose our competitive advantage," Francis said.

Francis serves as the modernization proponent for the current and future Aviation force. As the Aviation branch chief, he works closely with a team of leaders across the Aviation Enterprise, including partnering with Army Futures Command.

"The standup of the (Future Vertical Lift) cross functional team under Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen is making us stronger, better, and faster," Francis said. "We are tightly integrated, and there's no daylight between us."

In light of requirements development, Francis is concerned with "making sure the force we have today is ready to go with the latest capability, and getting ready to transition to the future as well," Francis said.

He explained the cascading effect of how an evaluation of the threats facing our Nation drives the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and "what we are building the Army to do," he said.

Francis said he wanted the group to understand the "logic trail" behind the Army's current modernization priorities and timelines, including how adversaries watched and learned as the Nation focused on a counterinsurgency fight for nearly two decades.

"If we maintain the status quo, and if we don't improve anything, we're going to be at risk of not being Multi-Domain Operations capable in 2028, and the capability gaps will continue to increase after that if we don't do something about it," he said.

"That's what is driving our modernization priorities … so we can be dominant by 2035. That's what is driving our timeline, and why you're seeing the acceleration of different programs," he said.

He described the problem set as "standoff": Adversaries have developed capabilities designed to give them maximum standoff so they can achieve strategic and operational objectives "before we get into an armed conflict that causes us to go force on force," he said.

"They know we have the ability to defeat any force in the world right now and so they've designed standoff. And it's not just on the military side. They're using political separation, physical separation and functional separation to give them time and space to achieve those objectives before ever getting to an armed standoff," he said.

Aviation must modernize, and optimize its formations.

"We know we're going to be contested in all domains, and we have to figure out how to get from here to there," he said. "If and when we are required to do so, we have to be able to penetrate anti-access, area-denial defenses, and to dis-integrate integrated air defense systems, be able to exploit the opening that we've created by doing that, and be able to return to competition on terms that are favorable to the U.S."

Francis said the network will be critical and must be integrated into air defense, missile defense and Soldier lethality.

While Aviation is 83 percent committed on any given day, the force must concurrently shift from a counterinsurgency focus toward large scale combat operations, which has implications across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy.

"When we have a generation of leaders, officers, and NCOs that have grown up in a COIN environment, that's now a cultural shift to get us back to where we need to be. And we're going to have to do a lot of things across the DOTMLPF to get us there," he said.

The challenge will be hard, but the Army has done it before and will do it again, he explained.
Francis thanked industry for leaning forward, and for demonstrating technology to help achieve the needed capability for the future.

"We're really going to need your help as we always have with industry, to get from here to there."
Brig. Gen. James P. Bienlien, director of G3/5/7 Futures and Concepts Center, Army Futures Command, Fort Eustis, Va. spoke about the Army in Multi-Domain Operations, including how concepts drive change, the threat focus, the tenets of MDO, and MDO force packages.

The most recent published modernization guidance is focused on the DOTMLPF-P, he explained.
"The difference is this is a holistic approach, much more complex, much larger effort to deliver 2028," Bienlien said.

The lineup of sessions included an update from the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, as well as sessions about Aviation modernization priorities, an update from the Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, and panel sessions on Penetrate, Dis-integrate, Exploit and Aviation training for MDO.