More aviation S&T funding needed

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Army aviation can’t go forward in the future with its current science and technology (S&T) budget, warned Brig. Gen. William T. Crosby, the Army’s aviation program executive officer.

With just $107 million to spend for this year, Crosby, speaking Jan. 13 at AUSA’s Aviation Symposium and Exposition, said there will have to be some "hard decisions and risks in some areas" if the Army wants to continue exploring new S&T advancements in aviation.

Currently, the Army is only upgrading existing platforms, and the only new aircraft in the inventory are unmanned aerial vehicles.

The projections are that by 2025, 70-year-old CH-47 Chinooks, and 50-year-old UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apaches and OH-58 Kiowas will still be flying with no new vertical-lift aircraft projected, Crosby said.

While those aircraft are currently effective, there’s no way of knowing if future threats and operations will see those aircraft in diminished roles or even obsolete.

"We wait until it’s broken to fix it," Crosby said. "We’re putting money aside and investing in ourselves to hopefully have a new system" to replace an aging system.

Options for new programs have been explored, but there’s nothing firm on the horizon, he said.

Comparing fixed-wing to rotary-wing aircraft since the 1950s, the Air Force has been through five generations of fighters – with technology such as stealth and thrust vectoring – while the Army has been through only three generations of helicopters.