As with the rest of the nation, 2020 was a year in which the Program Executive Office for Aviation was challenged by the impact of the pandemic.

In collaboration with Redstone leadership in following evolving Department of Defense and local guidelines, PEO Aviation quickly adapted to the rapidly changing environment and implemented the measures necessary for safe and effective operations. While pandemic related constraints created many challenging circumstances, PEO Aviation continued to design, develop, deliver and support advanced aviation capabilities for operational commanders and allies.

Leadership changes

PEO Aviation began 2020 with leadership change in January as Maj. Gen. Thomas Todd transferred responsibility of the organization to Deputy PEO Patrick Mason to become the deputy commanding general for acquisition and systems management at the Army Futures Command. Mason served as the PEO until July, handing over leadership responsibilities to Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, and returning to his previous position as deputy.

The Multi-National Aviation Special Project Office changed leadership as Col. John Vannoy relinquished responsibility to Col. Tim McDonald. Col. Tal Sheppard relinquished responsibility of the Apache Attack Helicopter Project Office to Col. Jay Maher.

Apache Attack Helicopter

The AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter Project Office had a productive year with the AH-64 program. They fielded a total of 64 aircraft to units across the Army. Despite challenges associated with the pandemic, the Apache New Equipment Training Team completed training in July for aviators with 1st Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment (16th Combat Aviation Brigade) located in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, qualifying them to fly latest version of the aircraft. The 1-229th received the first production V6 in October and will continue taking possession of aircraft until reaching their 24th scheduled for delivery in March.

Aviation Mission Systems and Architecture

Aviation Mission Systems and Architecture Project Office remained as productive as ever, completing the fielding of the Aircraft Notebook in March with more than 600 servers and almost 3,000 workstations followed by the subsequent transition to the PEO-Enterprise Information System. This wrapped up an initiative which began in 2016 with initial fielding to the Lakota fleet. The Self-Propelled Crane, Aircraft Maintenance and Positioning completed its Logistics Demo and Technical Manual Verification in February and achieved Initial Operational Capability in July. The project office also supported the successful integration of Degraded Visual Environment Aircraft A-Kits with maintenance operational checks on eight HH-60M aircraft of the 1st Cavalry Aviation Brigade. The team then aided in the definitization and funding of the B-Kit production contract, with B-Kit installation and unit training commencing in October. In all the project office has delivered more than 760 Aviation Mission Planning Stations, 2,500 Common Aviation Tool Systems, 500 Blue Force Tracker kits, 260 AN/ANRC-231 Radios and 627 Improved Data Modems.

The Aviation Architecture and Environment Exploitation Product Office experienced a leadership change as Shawn Gresham relinquished his position as product manager to Raymond Scarborough in June. Scarborough served in the role until the arrival of Lt. Col. John Seitz who assumed the charter as the product manager for the A2E2 Product Office in July. The Assured Airspace Access Systems Product Office saw a change of leadership when Patrick Layden relinquished the A3S charter to Lt. Col. Adam Moodie.

Aviation Turbine Engines

The Aviation Turbine Engines Project Office was able to achieve several notable accomplishments despite having to adjust to working mostly in a virtual environment. The Improved Turbine Engine Program completed the Critical Design Review milestone within a completely virtual environment. Each of the three CDR events, the Engine Control System Component CDR, Software CDR, and Engine System CDR, was conducted exclusively using virtual collaboration tools, a first for a major milestone event. The project office also completed fit testing the next generation power plant for the Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. The side-to-side fit checks in an Apache and Black Hawk used a 3D printed model of the T901 to conduct this comprehensive risk reduction effort. The T901 Mockup Engine was installed in both Nacelles of an AH-64E and H-60M airframe. The fit tests included inspections and measurements of clearances to assess the design envelope, and Human Systems Integration. The ITEP team, supported by the Utility Helicopters Project Office, Sikorsky, Apache Helicopter Project Office, Boeing, and GE Aviation, ensured the drop-in replacement was a seamless fit in both aircraft platforms for both form and function.

Cargo Helicopters

The Cargo Helicopters Project Office delivered 17 CH-47Fs in 2020, bringing the total number of CH-47Fs on hand to 459. The Army took delivery of the first CH-47F Block II engineering and manufacturing development prototype in September.

The CH-47 Modernization Product Office saw a change of leadership as Lt. Col John Schmitt handed over leadership of the office to Lt. Col. David Hnyda, and the CH-47F Improved Cargo Helicopter leadership changed from Lt. Col. Danielle Medaglia to Lt. Col. Travis Blaschke.

Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft

The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft Project Office increased office size from four to 24 members. The office processed 64 contract actions across 40 contract vehicles. In March, it selected two of five vendors competing for the FARA Competitive Prototype effort to continue beyond Initial Design and Risk Review through Final Design, Prototype Build, and Flight Testing. The project office, in coordination with the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team and the intelligence and requirements community, published the Virtual Online Threat Library to provide current and future threats. This small but capable organization looks to continue its prudent growth in order to position the project office for a successful design authority transition and to prepare the acquisition strategy, and future projected milestones.

Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft

Building on the Joint Multi-Role Technical Demonstrations, the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft Project Office initiated critical risk reduction efforts to realize long-term strategy and goals. Additional tasks on the JMR TD Technology Interchange Agreements provided the Army with weapon system conceptual designs, while the flight test demonstrators continued to expand the flight envelope. Early collaboration between the Army and industry is allowing the Army to influence innovation and competition, while also offering more opportunities for Soldiers to provide input into the final requirements. Army pilots flew these new configurations and Army maintainers provided critical feedback on the new approaches to sustainment. Further, ongoing technology assessments have continued by capitalizing on data from flying demonstrators, test stands and wind tunnel models. The project office competitively awarded two Other Transaction Authority agreements to two vendors for FLRAA’s competitive demonstration and risk reduction effort to execute cost informed requirements tradeoff analysis, initiate conceptual designs, and deliver a FLRAA weapon system functional baseline using a digital engineering environment. The use of existing, negotiated Aviation and Missile Technology Consortium OTA agreements, during the CD&RR effort allowed the project office to be more effective by streamlining the traditional acquisition process and significantly reducing risk before the program of record. Realized outcomes of the OTA include reduced schedule to award, increased cost efficiencies and increased flexibility.

Fixed Wing

The Fixed Wing Project Office delivered the first fully mission configured Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Enhanced “Crow” aircraft to a unit in the field. The ARL-E Crow system, developed to replace the aging Airborne Reconnaissance Low EO-5 fleet, is scheduled to undergo Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation in the third quarter of fiscal 2021. The project office also fielded the First Upgraded Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar Aircraft System and first ever Manned Aerial Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance jet – named the Airborne Reconnaissance and Targeting Multi-Mission Intelligence System. The aircraft provides high altitude sensing capabilities against near peer adversaries and bridges gaps in the Multi Domain Operations mission.

The Special Electronic Mission Aircraft Product Office leadership changed hands when Lt. Col. Jeff Jablonski relinquished the product office charter to Craig Besaw.

Multi-National Aviation Special

The Multi-National Aviation Special Project Office celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020. Since its inception in 2010, the project office has served the Department of Defense in performing Mi-17, and other non-standard rotary wing aircraft, procurement and support activities, and 2020 was as busy as ever. During the year, the project office executed more than 180 contract actions in providing aviation support to international partners and allies and garnered Army recognition for their efforts. The project office was selected as the winner of the Army Operational Analysis Award, given in recognition of analytical efforts in support of operational commanders.

Maj. Tom Brewington assumed responsibility as product director for Scout/Attack Product Office. Blake Anderson assumed responsibility as product director (acting) for Cargo/Utility Product Office and Cory Hardin assumed responsibility as the deputy product director for Scout/Attack.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project delivered four Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Brigade Combat Teams and conducted new equipment training on the systems to support the first Soldier-operated flight testing for the Army Futures Command-directed Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System capabilities assessments. The joint operational events took place to evaluate selected unmanned aircraft systems to assist in defining the capabilities needed in the next generation UAS for brigade combat teams. The project office also delivered four Gray Eagle Extended Range units and almost 120 Soldier UAS to the field. The project office completed Follow-On Test and Evaluation of the Shadow Block III UAS. The system completed operational test by recording over 400 flight hours and achieving system firsts in Manned/Unmanned teaming with the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter.

Carlos Correia accepted responsibility as the product lead for the Soldier Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Office from Margaret Patton; and Lt. Col. Olin Walters accepted responsibility as the product manager for the Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Office from Lt. Col. David Griffin.

Utility Helicopters

The Utility Helicopters Project Office accepted 67 HH/UH-60M aircraft and 16 UH-72A. The project office also delivered Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer simulators to Fort Bragg, Fort Knox and Fort Drum. The UH-60V aircraft achieved several firsts, receiving an overall rating of green for milestone Full Rate Production Decision Independent Logistics Assessment. The first production 60V rolled off the line at Corpus Christi Army Depot and achieved its first flight. 

Lt. Col. Seth Swartz assumed responsibility for the MEDEVAC Product Office from the outgoing product manager Col. Josephine Thompson. Lt. Col. Joseph Alexander assumed responsibility for UH-60M Product Office from Ed Gozdur.

Workforce recognition

PEO Aviation’s Mike Cowperthwait and Peter Trenkle were recognized as PEO Aviation’s nominees for 2020 Association of the U.S. Army Redstone-Huntsville Chapter Department of the Army Civilian of the Year. Cowperthwait, deputy project manager for Cargo’s CH-47F, was nominated and won in the Technical/Technical Management category and Trenkle, an engineer with the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, was nominated in the Professional/Technical category.

While 2020 was a year of unparalleled challenges, PEO Aviation has adapted to the current environment and continued to accomplish. The PEO Aviation workforce will continue to execute its primary objective: serve Soldiers and the nation by designing, developing, delivering and supporting advanced aviation capabilities for operational commanders and allies.

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