WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 25, 2011) -- The Army Aviation community has sustained an operational tempo five times that of peace time, flying more than 4.5 million hours since 2003.

To support that effort, the Army has 623 manned and unmanned aircraft in theater today, has delivered more than 250 new aircraft and 317 new unmanned aerial systems to the field in 2010, said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

"We have exceeded the estimates of what Army aviation was expected to do," said Phillips, during the 2011 Army Aviation Association of America Exposition, April 20, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. "We will always work our hardest to make sure we have the world's best equipment and the world's greatest aviation corps that serves our Soldiers and our Army today."

The general also said Army aviation has maintained an approximately 84-percent mission readiness rates across the fleet.

In the face of the high operations tempo for Army aviation, Phillips emphasized the importance of aviation reset. He said some 2,126 aircraft were reset prior to deployment.

"We must not forget that all those aviation systems, including ground systems, must be reset immediately upon return," he said.

The general said reset efforts have been helped with implementation of conditioned-based maintenance techniques and the use of diagnostic devices to track the health of an aircraft's systems and electronics. Systems like Health and Usage Monitoring Systems, or HUMS, have made a huge difference to the Army aviation community.

"We have done great work with conditioned-based maintenance," Phillips said. "The value of putting sensors and HUMS on aircraft has been powerful -- not only in reducing maintenance costs, but also in terms of saving lives."

Phillips also applauded delivery of the 100th CH-47F Chinook aircraft, current construction of the first AH-64D Block III Apache aircraft and fielding of new UH-60M Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters. Over the last 12 months, the Army has fielded 118 new Black Hawks and 54 new Lakotas.

"We will continue to build the Block III Apache and EADS North America is still delivering Lakotas today and doing remarkable work staying on cost and on schedule and delivering to the performance requirements our aviators need," Phillips said.

The general also said Army aviation is making progress amid efforts to develop an "aerial tier" for the Army's tactical battlefield network -- technologies designed to use high-bandwidth waveforms, satellites and software-programmable radios to connect dismounted Soldiers across the force in real time to on-the-move vehicles and higher echelon command posts.

Army aviation helps in thickening of the combat network by hoisting tactical radios into the air and furthering their reach -- such as a Rifleman Radio inside a RQ-7 Shadow UAS, for instance, or in a Black Hawk.

"It is incredible how it thickens the network," Phillips said. "And we must work harder and quicker to get the network onboard aircraft so we can help Soldiers on the ground communicate. Fielding the network is the highest priority program that we have in our Army, and aviation is a key part of that."

The general said getting networked radios into the cockpit of aircraft remains a challenge.

The Rifleman Radio, part of the Joint Tactical Radio Systems family of radios, is engineered to use the Soldier Radio Waveform to move voice, data and images across the force.

Citing the Department of Defense's push to achieve or identify $100 billion in savings by fiscal year 2016, Phillips referenced the Army aviation community's role and praised the Aviation Capability Portfolio Review for identifying areas of economic efficiency across the range of aviation platforms.

"I have attended almost all capability portfolio reviews and the one that came forward consistently with a solid plan is Army aviation," Phillips said. "The work that the aviation community has done to drive down costs and achieve efficiencies is exactly what we need to do, and we just need more work to obtain greater efficiencies across a broad spectrum of aviation industry."

In particular, Phillips said multi-year contract approaches and other techniques for finding efficiencies have resulted in $450 million in savings for the CH-47F Chinook helicopter, $700 million in savings on the Black Hawk -- which is still pending Congressional approval -- and $2.5 billion overall saving throughout aviation systems. He emphasized that when executing efficiencies such as multi-year savings, "we must keep our promises to the Congress and the American people."

"The drive toward efficiency is more important today than it ever was if you hear the dialogue inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill," Phillips said. "One of our challenges for now and the future is to make sure that we take advantage of every dollar that the American taxpayer and Congress gives us."

During his presentation at the Army Aviation Association of America Exposition, Phillips referred to past aviation and senior Army leaders who have played a key role in Army aviation -- referring to them as a "board of directors." Included among those were Col. (ret) Bruce Crandall and Maj. Gen. (ret) Pat Brady, who are both Medal of Honor recipients, as well as Gen. (ret) Crosby Saint.

The Army Aviation Association of America Exposition ran April 17-20, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn.