Quad-A, the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual gathering was kicked-off in earnest by MG Anthony Crutchfield on the first morning when he set the Army’s aim point for the new Joint Multi-Role helicopter at 2030. By that date, he said, the lifetime of all of the Army’s major platforms would be in sight: Apache Block III would come to the end of its service life around 2040, so to the UH-60M, the CH-47F Chinook had five years less, and the upgraded Kiowa Warrior OH-58D would not extend beyond 2025 at the latest.
The rotorcraft would have to deliver increased speed, range, payload, a reduced logistical footprint and survivability.
“It is going to have to be something new. We won’t get everything we want, but we need to get what we need,” he decreed. Recognizing that the ‘happy days’ of Comanche cancellation derived funding was now over, he added: “We cannot afford another Apache.”
The “greatest challenge” the Army faces “is beyond Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, adding that it is not all about “how we adapt to the future.” Crutchfield said that 623 helicopters were currently deployed into Iraq and Afghanistan (there are still around 240 in Iraq with two Combat Aviation Brigades), the rest being with the three CABs currently in Afghanistan and not forgetting the sixth deployed CAB in South Korea. This was a higher level of commitment than during the Iraqi ‘surge,’ he confirmed. There was, he stressed, a real need for the 12th and 13th CABs—the former is currently being stood-up while the 13th will not be ready until 2015. He underlined the fact that Army aviation is still in very high demand in a fluid environment (regarding the Army’s ongoing commitments around the world).
Crutchfield voiced his concern about the enduring bog:dwell time of his aviation soldiers, which currently stands at between 1:1 and 1:1.3 with the aim of getting it out to 1:2 [the Reserve is at around 1:2, but the ambition there is to push it out to around 1:3.5]. “After a decade of combat our soldiers are tired,” he said, although he noted there were no signs that this was effecting their commitment in any way.
Speaking later in the day, Crutchfield expanded on the challenges facing Army Aviation, saying that reduced budgets were requiring a devotion to wise spending and making the best use of resources. He foresaw no decrease in demand. Further expanding on the expectation of the Joint Multi-Role, he said that he could only look at it from a materiel viewpoint but that the requirements he was laying down meant that an entirely new platform was the most likely outcome. He did not rule out a scalable family of aircraft with the attractiveness of commonality across the fleet.