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NEWS | Nov. 30, 2023

Aviation and Missile Soldiers participate in readiness conference

By Michelle L. Gordon

Aviation and Missile Command leaders participated in the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual Cribbins Readiness Conference held Nov. 13-15 in Huntsville, Alabama.

AMCOM Commander Maj. Gen. Tom O’Connor was the event’s keynote speaker Nov. 14. He told the audience, composed of Army aviators and industry leaders, that the U.S. is in a challenging global security environment, specifically identifying artificial intelligence, supply chain delinquency, regional threats and rising global powers as his primary concerns.

“We need to be sure that we are trained and ready to fight and win,” he said. “There is no doubt about it; the future is uncertain, but what is certain is, ‘this we’ll defend.’ Our nation will be ready.”

O’Connor said readiness is his biggest concern regarding these challenges, noting the impact of supply availability and procurement and the decline in readiness rates throughout the past five years.

“Our supply availability is growing; it’s growing in the wrong direction,” he said. “Our backorders have increased, and last year, we spent $2.8 million on repair parts — a significant amount of money. However, a little over 12% percent of that is delinquent deliveries. Deliveries of materiel that are not reaching our Soldiers to fix their equipment. We’ve got to figure out how to do better.”

He gave a brief overview of how AMCOM is leveraging data to be more predictive about the reliability of component parts.

“Over the last year, we anticipated components that would fail before their lifetime,” he said. “We contacted the units and told them they needed to replace the component before they put Soldiers at risk. We are using data to inform our decision-making and our awareness about reliability and how to improve readiness across the board.”

While addressing the aging fleet, O’Connor said the age of an aircraft does not reflect its reliability if it is properly maintained, comparing his grandmother’s pristine 1968 classic car to his 2015 truck with over 150,000 miles. Instead, indicators such as structural assessments, number of flight hours, number of deployments, number of significant services, fully mission-capable rates over the last five years, etc., can provide a more accurate evaluation of an aircraft’s health.

Other topics included advanced manufacturing, digital twin efforts, organic industrial base modernization and leveraging new technology.

However, O’Connor’s biggest takeaway was simple: the Army cannot do it alone. Industry partnerships are vital to the success of our military.

“We need industry’s help,” he said. “Meet us halfway. Communicate obsolescence to us early. Last year, we invested almost $48 million to reduce obsolescence from the organic industrial base. Next year, we plan on investing about $78 million to reduce obsolescence throughout the Army aviation fleet. This allows us to ensure we have the ability to sustain our fleet and move forward.”

O’Connor acknowledged the fight for talent and reiterated his request for public-private partnerships between the defense industrial base and the organic industrial base, especially when it comes to developing future systems and further support and sustainment of those systems.

Throughout the three-day conference, other AMCOM Soldiers and civilians attended the event to network with industry partners to help facilitate the public-private partnerships O’Connor requested.

Brian Wood, the director of the AMCOM Logistics Center, participated in the supply chain management panel alongside industry leaders, and AMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Bradford Smith hosted an industry panel on advanced composites and nondestructive inspection.

“We live in challenging times,” O’Connor said. “But together, we’ll ensure our Soldiers remain ready today and tomorrow, and we can’t do it alone.”