Future Roles of Army Aviation in Large Scale Combat Operations
US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States
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The US Army is experiencing a cultural shift away from years of low intensity, counter-insurgency operations toward large scale combat operations with a near-peer or peer threat. The shift includes a major change from brigade-centric operations to divisions and corps serving as the primary warfighting headquarters. Headquarters must now not only provide resources, but simultaneously direct the conflict in multiple domains, including space and cyber-space. US Army Aviation can be a significant force multiplier, but only when used effectively. Army Aviation continues to gain ground through lessons learned from the readiness training centers on how best to reach deep in multi-domain operations. Army Aviation faces many obstacles to continue to be a force multiplier. The 2015 Field Manual 3-04, Army Aviation, set new expectations for large scale combat operations, but improvements in training, equipment, and doctrine are necessary to achieve what FM 3-04 demands conceptually. The complex battlefield set by near-peer and peer threats restricts Army Aviations freedom of maneuver with anti-access and area-denial systems. To respond to such threats, Army Aviation currently fields upgrades to its legacy fleet of helicopters, but this approach consumes resources that could go towards the future vertical lift fleet. For Army Aviation to be ready to fight today, they must continue to improve the legacy fleet. However, the more Army Aviation spends on updating the legacy fleet, the less it is investing in the future airframes. Additionally, the current fleet has limited potential for further modifications. The key question is whether such modifications to the legacy fleet will be enough to combat the challenges faced in the complex and lethal battlefield of large scale combat operations against a near-peer or peer threat. This monograph addresses those questions surrounding the shift from counter-insurgency to large scale combat operations for Army Aviation.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics