U.S. Army Commission Proposes Apache Compromise
AeroBD | The AERO news Company…Inverness, SCOTLAND, 10 March, 2016 : Its creation sparked by a dispute between the U.S. Army and National Guard over the transfer of Boeing AH-64 Apaches, the National Commission on the Future of the Army has proposed a compromise on the attack helicopters.
The proposal — spelled out in the final report by the eight commissioners comprising former Army officers, Pentagon officials and a defense analyst — would fall between the plan to move all the AH-64s to the regular Army and replace them with Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters under the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI), and the National Guard’s counter-proposal.
The ARI was devised when the Army aviation branch’s budget was cut by 40%, terminating plans to acquire new armed scout helicopters to replace Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. Instead, the Army planned to divest the OH-58Ds and replace them with AH-64Es operating jointly with unmanned aircraft.
This required the transfer of all Apaches to the regular Army, a move vociferously opposed by the National Guard Bureau. While ARI called for the Army to have 20 AH-64 battalions and the Guard none, the Bureau’s counter-proposal called for 24 battalions, 18 in the Army and six in the Guard. The Commission concluded ARI offers little help in reducing the high peacetime operational tempo for Army Apache units and no wartime surge capability or reserve component backup. The Bureau’s alternative provided less wartime capacity and increased costs, the report says.
Option Three, the “ARI modified” compromise recommended by the Commission, is for the regular Army to have 20 Apache battalions, each with 24 AH-64Es, and the Guard four, each with 18 aircraft – these to be made up to full strength before deploying operationally.
“Option Three proposes that the Army commit to use the Army National Guard battalions regularly—mobilizing them and deploying them in peacetime,” the report says.
To hold down costs, only two Black Hawk battalions would be added to the Guard instead of the four planned under ARI. The result of this third option would be to increase the number of AH-64Es in the Army and Guard to 714, from 690 under ARI, but reduce the UH-60s to 2,075 from 2,135. The Commission’s proposal, if acceptable, would incur one-time procurement costs estimated at up to $420 million to remanufacture 24 Guard AH-64Ds to E standard, and up to $165 million a year in additional operating costs, including forward-stationing a Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) in Korea, the report says.
Meanwhile, the commission recommends the Army not fall below 980,000 soldiers — the level specified in the service’s fiscal 2016 budget. But even at that force level, the Army faces significant shortfalls, the Commission says, citing aviation, short-range air defense, tactical mobility and missile defense, among other areas. “Today, some aviation assets cannot meet expected wartime capacity requirements,” the report says.
“Peacetime demand for aviation assets is among the highest, and demand may grow as threats from Russia and other nations escalate. Retaining an 11th Combat Aviation Brigade in the regular Army would help meet these demands,” the report says. Maintaining a forward stationed CAB in South Korea would avoid the “unacceptable risk” in current plans to rotate units through beginning in 2019.
The Commission found an “unacceptable modernization shortfall” in short-range air defense. Post-Cold War, the Army saw little threat from the air, the report says, adding, “Recent activities in Ukraine and Syria have demonstrated the threat environment has changed. Yet no short-range air defense battalions reside in the regular Army.” A “sizeable percentage” of Guard capability is defending the Capitol, the report says.
The Commission says the already reduced level of 980,000 soldiers set in the fiscal 2016 budget “is the minimally sufficient force to meet current and anticipated missions at an acceptable level of national risk.”
“A regular Army of 450,000, an Army National Guard of 335,00o and an Army Reserve of 195,000 represent…the absolute minimums to meet America’s national security objectives,” the report says. But the reserve components must be resourced to provide both operational capability and to maintain the readiness and continue the modernization required in the event of a full mobilization, the Commission says. This requires funding levels at least equal to the fiscal 2016 request, the report says.
This article was originally published on January 29, 2016.