Defeating the widespread and varied threats to Army aviation in the future battlefield environment will require a combination of quick assessment, maintaining current skills, and integrating new technology, the Army’s top aviation officer said Jan. 14 at an Association of the U.S. Army Institute of Land Warfare Hot Topic forum.
"I don’t see the core competencies of Army aviation changing," said Maj. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala.
Adding, "We’re still going to have to find the enemy, provide the commander with maneuver space and reaction time, and destroy or defeat opposing forces."
However, he said, the methods used by aviation units to accomplish those missions will change, and new technology will enable faster and more lethal responses.
Gary Phillips, senior intelligence advisor, TRADOC G-2 Intelligence Support Activity, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), gave an overview of emerging technologies and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by enemy forces against U.S. Army rotary wing aircraft.
"Adversaries have invested in air defense capabilities focused on defeating Army rotary aircraft, hinged around detecting the aircraft before it detects the air defense system, and delivering a munition that will home in on the maneuvering aircraft," Phillips said.
In the dense urban terrain of a megacity, the proliferation of 3D printing could turn any apartment into a weapons production facility, he said.
Adding, "Combine that with advances in camouflage, cover and deception, and you get a battlespace where it’s very difficult to determine friend from foe."
The explosive growth of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can potentially crowd contested airspace, Phillips said.
"If you take UAVs, friendly and opposing, and add helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft – you have an airspace dynamic we’ve never seen before," he noted.
Cyber operations add another wrinkle to the problem. "For every million lines of code, there are 3,000 potential errors," Phillips said. Not all are exploitable, but some inevitably are, he added.
Anti-aircraft gun-missile hybrids, such as the Russian Pantsir-S1, are a growing concern.
"The Russians are taking this to the next level, adding a two phase missile designed specifically to take down helicopters," Phillips said.
"With the threat that’s been presented, we know we are going to be challenged like never before, across all domains," said Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, director, concept development and learning, Army Capabilities and Integration Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Adding, "As we look to the future, we must come up with solutions strategies that we can implement across the force. This is the unified challenge."
This AUSA Institute of Land Warfare Hot Topic was sponsored by Bell Helicopter, an AUSA sustaining member.