Opening AUSA’s annual aviation conference, General Robert Cone, Commanding General US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), spoke of the difficulty that the army faces in striking the right balance between near-term readiness and longer term modernisation.
‘We don’t want to buy too much near-term readiness at the expense of the modernisation programmes we are dealing with in the long-term,’ Crone stated. ‘But we also have a challenge in that we cannot accept the level of risk in our near-term readiness that we accepted in the past.’
He added that there was the additional danger that young warfighters accustomed to preparing for and being involved in active operations might become disenchanted with a peace time army unless they could be actively engaged. One of the keys as far as TRADOC is concerned will be to get the right mixture of training across the live, virtual and constructive spectrum.
However, Crone also said that even as US forces prepare to end the fight in Afghanistan other activities are beginning to ramp up as combatant commanders in other regions, such as AFRICOM, begin to ask for the resources that are beginning to become free for other missions. ‘The army has ceded its role in a number of theatres because we were so focused on Iraq and Afghanistan,’ Crone observed.
Turning to aviation specific challenges for the future Crone said that the army should be prepared to operate in a new and complex environment, over extended ranges that would have significant implications for its aviation assets.
‘The environment today is significantly more dangerous than it has been in the past,’ Crone stated. ‘There has been a proliferation of low end technologies that effective against army aviation. So you have to talk about force protection against these threats.’ He added that the army needed to be involved in the debate about how to overcome anti-access/area-denial capabilities that a future enemy might deploy.’
Crone said that there would be no doubt that army aviation would be in higher demand. He said this and the future environment would lead to greater requirements for range and speed in the army’s vertical lift inventory.
‘We need more responsiveness and increased endurance on station,’ Crone concluded. ‘It will be essential for aircraft to operate at greater distances.’