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NEWS | July 12, 2018

Aviation leaders talk readiness, plans for sustaining the fleet longer

By Julie Frederick

Fifty senior Army aviators and logisticians from around the world converged on Huntsville last week for the annual Worldwide Aviation Logistics Conference (WALC) to discuss the future of Army aviation sustainment and maintenance.

The Army’s current fleet of rotary-wing aircraft have been in service for decades. The Army has plans for flying an additional 30 to 50 years. That is going to require in-depth strategic plans from Army leaders on how to move forward, which is the ultimate end-state of the WALC.

“The purpose of the WALC is to bring aviation-focused logisticians together to address strategic and operational aviation issues,” said Chief Warrant Officer Five Michael Cavaco, Army Aviation and Missile Command’s Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer. “This year we are looking at readiness and sustainment issues in support of expeditionary operations.” 

Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, has stated that his number one priority is readiness; therefore, it is imperative to find new ways to keep improving maintenance and sustainment processes in order to meet his intent with the current and future fleet, according to Cavaco.

The Army Aviation Enterprise leadership is focused on ensuring that the Aviation community is working together at all levels to take a long-term, strategic look at what the Army will need to meet Milley’s intent and keep the fleets sustained for the future, Cavaco said.

“Realize that both the [Army Aviation] Sustainment Strategy and Condition-Based Maintenance Strategy have three signatures: the commanders of the Aviation Branch, AMCOM and [Program Executive Office] Aviation,” said Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram, AMCOM commanding general. “Collaboration and teamwork moving forward is important, and we don’t go anywhere without branch leading the way. That’s why events like this are so important.” 

The Army estimates that approximately 70 percent of the total life-cycle cost of an aircraft is spent on sustainment and maintenance. That means, as Defense funding continues to tighten, that articulating the importance of the work being accomplished is vital for Army aviation going forward. During the WALC, the discussions directly focused on how to communicate the operational impacts of sustainment and maintenance budget fluctuations.

“Ultimately, the biggest challenge is reducing the maintenance and sustainment burden on the Soldier in the field along with increasing support to the ground force,” Cavaco said. 

The WALC is a Department of the Army G-4, Aviation event. AMCOM historically hosts this event as a centralized location for leaders since Alabama is home to four of the Army’s seven aviation-centered commands. 

“I believe the WALC is a phenomenal event,” Lt. Col. James Barber, DA G-4, Aviation Logistics Division Chief, said. “Engaging in key topics affecting the Aviation community is critical and I believe every agency involved plays a pivotal role. I appreciate AMCOM for hosting and executing such an important event.”

The three-day event included discussions by leaders from the Program Executive Office for Aviation; the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command; U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Department of Training and Doctrine; and the Department of the Army G-4, Aviation. The participants’ input during the discussions was then used to build recommendations for new or improved initiatives to support aviation. Those recommendations were then presented to a General Officer Steering Committee for decision on the last day of the event.