|A U.S. Army AH-64 lands
on the USS Comstock’s flight deck
during 2014 operations.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy /Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lenny LaCrosse
The U.S. Army is “changing the configuration of aviation in the Pacific,” bringing more AH-64 Apaches into the theater over the next two years to bolster joint-services and allied capabilities, said the service’s top commander in the region.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, told reporters in Washington, D.C., last month that moving more of the Boeing attack helicopters into Army aviation units in the region between now and 2018 will increase the number of similarly equipped systems as well as “the opportunities for partnering with other countries that have purchased the Apache.”
The shift opens the door for the U.S. “to share knowledge and skills and help build the capacity of some of our regional friends,” said the general. It also will help build interoperability and collaboration among U.S. forces in the region. U.S. Army Pacific is that service’s component of the U.S. Pacific Command, one of six geographic joint, or unified combatant, commands of the American armed forces.
The Pacific Command’s area of responsibility covers about half the Earth’s surface, from waters off the U.S. West Coast to India’s western border, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. More than one third of Asia-Pacific nations are smaller island nations, including the smallest republic in the world (Nauru) and the smallest nation in Asia (Maldives), according to the command.
The geography and geopolitics of the region make it important for Army aviators to be experienced in over-water operations, Brooks said. Whether forces are operating on the Korean peninsula, off the coast of Alaska, into the Arctic Circle or from Hawaii, “the joint team and the operating environment demand that we are more agile in going across traditional domains and bringing capabilities to bear.”
He added that Apaches and other aviation assets, such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) like General Atomics’ Gray Eagle, can operate effectively in maritime environments, augmenting assets the U.S. Navy already has in place. Jointness—providing the capabilities of one service into the operations of another—is key. “That’s where our competitive advantage is, frankly.”
Brooks said Army helicopters and UAS rotorcraft will integrate more and more with Navy ships at sea, though the pace of integration has been slowed by the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative to replace Bell Helicopter OH-58Ds with Apaches from the Army Guard and Reserve in a bid to save billions in lifecycle and procurement costs.
Heavy-hitting militaries in the region, like those of Indonesia and India, have purchased AH-64s, enhancing interoperability with the U.S., Brooks said, adding that the Army is urging allies in the region to buy platforms and systems that operate well with U.S. equipment.
|Gen. Vincent Brooks.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army
Brooks also is pushing for Army participation in a series of exercises called Pacific Pathways to bolster interoperability and test the working relationships between allied militaries and their equipment. Sizable Army units participated in the Rim of the Pacific exercises in 2014 to develop those skills and the service will expand its involvement in that exercise in 2016.
This item is based on a Dec. 8, 2015, report by Dan Parsons of Defense Daily.