“We have a demand that is increasing and a threat that must be addressed. If you look back 15 years on the war on terror we have grown into a COIN (counter-insurgency) centred force,” said Major General William K Gayler, the Army Aviation branch chief on the opening morning of the annual Army Aviation Association of America convention, this year being staged in Atlanta Georgia (28-30 April).
Gayler is also the commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Centre of Excellence (USAACE) at Fort Rucker, Al, where the army trains its helicopter crewmen. “We started growing and modernising aircraft and we had the resources to do it; the UH-60Ms, CH-47Fs and AH-64Es are all entering the force. That was the right thing to do.”
“We’ve adjusted our resources to meet the demand,” he said. “Now, the instability in the world continues to move but resourcing is diverging from that. We have reduced manning but we ask for our institutions to continue to be flexible. We have got to find ways to do more with the same.”
The aviation force is not growing. Gayler noted that a previous field study report said that the active component required 15 Combat Aviation Brigades (CABs); it has 10 and will not be adding any more.
With the U.S. military still under the yoke of sequestration and the size of the army being reduced on an annual basis, while the digital upgrades to existing fleets continues, Gayler said that the reduction of resources has made the army much more focused on prioritisation: “it makes us put money where we need it; it is a balance between modernisation programmes, current readiness and training; and force structure.” That said, there are 35 battalions committed outside the U.S., in locations from Afghanistan and Iraq to Germany, Korea, Kosova and Honduras. These comprised 30 from the active component and five from the reserve.