FORT RUCKER, Ala. — Army aviation leaders and aviation industry representatives came together at Fort Rucker to focus on modernizing the force for large scale combat operations during an Aviation Industry Days event Aug. 2-4, 2022.
Hundreds of attendees packed the Post Theater to hear from Army aviation enterprise leaders, and 50 industry vendors displayed their latest technologies at The Landing.
Event host Maj. Gen. Michael C. McCurry, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commander, thanked leaders and Aviation enterprise teammates for their support in his opening remarks. He welcomed attendees, including industry partners, veterans, and community leaders from the Wiregrass area.
“What a great time to be part of Army aviation,” McCurry said. “In the midst of challenging times around the globe and the most significant modernization in the last 40 years, Industry Days provides us an excellent chance to see new opportunities, address challenges and have fruitful dialogue about the future.”
The synergy created during the event will help ensure the continued readiness of the aerial component of the combined arms team, McCurry explained during his branch update session.
“Army aviation provides the nation, the joint force, and ground commanders with an unrivaled operational advantage, without peer in scale or capability,” he said.
Aviation provides the combined arms team with the required “lethality, mobility, survivability, and situational understanding to win in this increasingly complex world,” McCurry said.
Although the aviation branch is often seen as the sum of its aircraft platforms--the enduring fleet of Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, as well as its Future Vertical Lift fleet--but its driving force is people.
“What makes our branch truly special is our Soldiers—maintainers, operations specialists, air traffic controllers, and most of all our flyers, all supported by the stalwart and unflagging families,” he said.
Taking care of Soldiers and families requires preparing them for large scale combat operations, and forging the educational foundation young warriors need, including updating doctrine and functional courses with a primary emphasis on tactical warfighting skills.
Army aviation warfighters “present the enemy with multiple dilemmas in time, space and tempo by attacking from multiple directions at the time and place of our choosing,” McCurry said.
Current operations in Europe provide an opportunity to study potential adversaries, just as they studied American forces during the counterinsurgency fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The branch must prepare for a future fight where “we will be contested in all domains by a thinking, evolving enemy,” he said. “We must be ready to operate from positions of relative sanctuary with better sustainment plans and support systems in an austere environment.”
This includes relooking how it trains and fights, and organizes and sustains the force.
“Gone are the days of the large logistics footprints we knew in places like Bagram and Balad. Instead we need smaller teams of highly trained and capable maintainers that can operate remotely, away from large logistics hubs,” McCurry said.
Longer times between maintenance will help with dominating the lower tier of the air domain, as will increased reach and lethality in the future.
Army aviation’s sole purpose is the Soldier on the ground, McCurry said.
“When that foot Soldier needs to know what’s just over the hill, we go find out. When he needs to be placed in a position of tactical advantage, we put them there. If they need just a little extra fire power, we will bring it to bear. And, God forbid, if they’re wounded on the field of battle, we’re coming to get them,” McCurry said.
Lt. Gen. Dennis S. McKean, deputy commander, Futures and Concepts, U.S. Army Futures Command, Austin, Texas, gave remarks about the future of combined arms warfare, including the potential impact of emerging tech on the character of war, and ideas on employment of future combined arms forces.
“This is very timely that we have industry here, and that you hear some of the challenges that we are working through, how we’re seeing he future. We need to understand the environment we are operating in,” McKean said.
McKean expects potential future adversaries will quickly find a way to counter new technologies.
“We’ve got to figure out what’s going to give us a temporary advantage, so we can employ our forces with the speed, range and capability that it needs to achieve the missions that it’s been given,” he said.
“One big expensive, exquisite thing could be mitigated very quickly on the onset. Then what? What are you left with? These are some of the considerations we are taking as we do our concept work and our war gaming,” he said.
McKean said human-machine teaming will be essential in the future force.
“Don’t lead with your face,” McKean said, referring to the future fight where first contact should be made using un-crewed systems. “That’s part of developing out some of our capabilities.”
McKean congratulated McCurry, who recently took the reins as the 17th Aviation branch chief, as the “right leader at the right time,” who understands the ground piece as well as the aviation side.
“We are very fortunate to have his leadership and his vision here at Fort Rucker and to help lead our Army,” McKean said.
Speaker sessions with leaders from around the Aviation branch included updates by Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command; and Maj. Gen. William D. Taylor, director, Army Aviation, office of the deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7, Army Pentagon.
Brig. Gen. Robert L. Barrie, Jr., program executive officer for aviation, provided an update on priority efforts.
The lineup of guest speakers also included Brig. Gen. Stephanie R. Ahern, director of Concepts, Futures and Concepts Center, U.S. Army Futures Command; and senior executive Jeffrey L. Langhout, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Aviation and Missile Center director.
Col. Chad Chasteen, operations director for the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, provided an update on the FVL ecosystem in large scale combat operations and highlights from the recent Experimental Demonstration Gateway Event (”Edge 22”).
The event also included scheduled opportunities to hear from the Aviation Capability Development and Integration Directorate about modernization efforts, and from project managers and aviation capability managers on their portfolios, with time allotted for question-and-answer sessions.