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Army Aviation -- Back to Its Roots

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U.S. Army Aviation was borne of necessity to expand the ground forces battle space to the third dimension. The first aviators were a part of ground units, and the close fight in Vietnam fostered an air-ground team seamlessly integrated in the close fight. An incremental growth in mission corresponded to improvements in technology and capability. The increasingly complex aircraft and threat environment drove specialization of training, and a need to allow aviators to remain in aviation assignments to develop expertise with these new tools. The result was the aviation branch -- a combat arms branch on equal footing with traditional branches of infantry, armor, and artillery. In an effort to address the numerical superiority of the Soviets and establish themselves as independent coequals on the modern battlefield, aviators espoused doctrine and tactics that were focused on being employed as a maneuver element, not a supporting element. A nearly singular focus on destroying massed Soviet armor formations beyond the forward line of troops was underlying all doctrine and training in Army Aviation. The result was a branch estranged from the other combat arms from which it was born. It was not until the Army found itself in the middle of counterinsurgencies against a technologically backward foe that out of date and out of favor tactics were reborn to support ground forces. Close combat on an ambiguous, nonlinear battlefield has in many ways replicated the operational environment of Vietnam, though in a far different physical environment. Army Aviation has returned to its roots with Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The strategic environment and enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq have driven Army Aviation to tactics and doctrine with which a veteran of the 1960s would be comfortable.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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