By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 01, 2017) -- Defining what the Army needs for aviation is a challenge, and everyone has an idea for the best way for Army aviation to write out its requirements, said Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler.
"When you look at the capability that you want, everybody will bash the process and say ... you ought to write requirements better," Gayler said. "Industry says you need to write them where I can test them easily. It's challenging from all our perspectives."
Gayler, who serves as commander of both the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, spoke at the 2017 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit, sponsored by the Army Aviation Association of America, April 26-28, in Nashville, Tennessee.
"From a requirements perspective, it should be 'I want better than we have today, for our ground force.' Better, no less capable, better," he said. "But to give more specificity, you have to describe it -- potentially, operationally."
Before an audience of several hundred Soldiers from the Army's aviation community as well as several hundred more attendees who represented the defense industry, Gayler offered some examples of what the Army is looking for in aviation modernization, and he did it in "operational" terms.
"I want the capability to move one brigade combat team, over one period of darkness, over an operationally significant distance," he said. "I want aircraft that are quicker to the place of need on the battlefield. I want airframes that can transit the depth and breadth of a division and corps battlespace, in the future, of potentially 500 kilometers, as quickly as we transit them today with 200-kilometer fronts. I want the option for a combatant commander to self-deploy with the speed necessary and range necessary to do that."
Also a necessary capability, Gayler said, is the ability to protect airframes and Soldiers who ride in them, and, he said, "we have absolutely got to be able to carry more stowed kills onboard our airframes."
"That's kind of operationalizing of a requirement. And that's exactly what we have got to provide our Soldiers ... in the future. And we will stay focused on that like a laser beam," Gayler said.
Army aviation will also stay focused on current modernization priorities that include the Improved Turbine Engine Program for the AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk, the Block II CH-47 Chinook, progress with aviation survivability, and improvements for aircraft that must operate in degraded visual environments, Gayler said.
He also said Army aviation is focused on future unmanned aerial system solutions, small precision-guided munitions capabilities, and continued development of the Future Vertical Lift capability.
Gayler said what Army aviation is asking for is not really for the aviation community itself but, rather, for those the aviation community serves. The Army's aviation branch has been around now since 1983, he said. One thing that's been made clear in that 34-year history, he said, is who the aviation branch exists to support.
"When you think about the vision for the branch, the vision for the branch is a professional, modernized force ... that is solely focused on the ground forces whom we support, to provide capabilities and options for combatant commanders, through reach, protection, and lethality, to win in a complex world," Gayler said.
"That is the vision for the branch," he continued. "That is why we exist. When we start thinking of a capability for our branch, it's not a capability for aviation. It's a capability for a commander on the ground. Every dollar we spend in aviation is a dollar spent on the ground force. We do not exist for ourselves."