Members of the aviation community have gathered for the Army Aviation Association of America’s 35th Aircraft Survivability Equipment Symposium.
The goal was developing lifesaving solutions for the Aviation Soldier and their passengers. More than 200 members of the acquisition, tactical air operations and industry communities converged in Huntsville to collaborate on “enhancing aviation survivability in Multi-Domain Operations.”
Launching the two-day event, retired Maj. Gen. Jeff Schloesser, AAAA president, pointed out that throughout the event’s history the collaboration has been key to lifesaving improvements in the ASE environment.
“This forum is a resource, for our Army and our branch, that has often resulted in real-world material and training solutions that helped us save countless lives on the battlefield all around the world,” he said. “We are looking out to ensure we have ASE overmatch capability today, tomorrow and into the future.”
Countering future threats was a common theme for both the users and acquisition professionals in attendance. Avoiding the struggles that Army aviation faced from an ASE perspective during the onset of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and pacing future threats were particular points of emphasis.
The need for ASE solutions to be developed quickly and be easily adaptable was among the primary messages from Maj. Gen. David Francis, commander of the Army Aviation Center of Excellence.
“We have an opportunity to modernize before we get to a point where it is catastrophic,” Francis said. “We absolutely have to rethink how we address survivability problems in Army aviation – in the past as we encountered a threat we would study that threat, we would develop countermeasures, but it was years in the making. We don’t have that luxury anymore. We have to absolutely be able to advance from a threat agnostic point of view to be able to rapidly integrate ASE solutions into our systems.”
Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, emphasized the need for ASE solutions to fit within the open architecture framework.
“An open systems architecture allows us to keep pace of the threat. It affords us the ability to perform agile technology evolutions while driving SWaP (size, weight and power) and cost down,” Collins said. “As part of this endeavor it will allow industry to have increased opportunity for competition.”
He also encouraged industry to investigate the application of survivability systems for ground platforms.
At the project manager level, there is a focus on increasing capability, reducing the SWaP burden on the aircraft and decreasing downtime.
“In order to get on our aircraft you need to have these considerations in mind: weight is always a concern and the more multi-spectral a system can be the better off it is,” Col. Kevin Chaney, project manager for Aircraft Survivability Equipment, said.
Chaney shared a look at a new modification initiative where 11 separate modifications are being made to Black Hawk helicopters at the same time. By performing a consolidated modification, the Aircraft Survivability Equipment Project Office along with partners from the Program Executive Office for Aviation plan to reduce a previously combined 3,000 hours for modifications to at least less than half that time.
Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, listed survivability among the four FVL tenants. “We will advance ASE to the point where the enemy cannot continue to turn inside of us with superior, cheaper technology and capability at a higher scale and lower cost,” he said. “We’ve got to put the cost curve back on them.”