Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command, speaks at the AUSA Army Aviation Symposium and Exhibition at Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Jan. 10. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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The future role of aviation will require soldiers to "relearn" attack aviation, said Gen. Robert W. Cone, the commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command. Army aviation also will need to develop a capable armed scout helicopter and airframes that enable teaming between manned and unmanned vehicles.
Soldiers will operate as smaller, noncontiguous forces, relying on aviation to link disparate operations.
"Army aviation provides adaptability and mitigates the risk on the battlefield," Cone said Thursday at an Army aviation symposium outside Washington, D.C.
For aviation, the environment will be made more dangerous by low-end technologies, ambiguous threats based on emerging technologies and enemy tactics focused on denying access to U.S. forces.
As the Army looks to the future of warfare, aviation will remain a "critical partner" to ground operations, Cone said.
In a complex future environment characterized by ambiguous conditions, multiple and varied threats, and operations that span broader areas, Army aviation will have to be able to operate at longer ranges, faster speeds and greater altitudes, Cone said.
"Aviation has proved itself in combat in the last 11 years. Everybody understands its value, and as we look to the future, we see a bigger role, not a smaller role," Cone said. "A lot of the risks we are assuming with a smaller Army can be mitigated by an investment in aviation."
Amid recent budget challenges, the Army faces difficult trade-offs between short-term readiness and long-term modernization of its airframes. TRADOC, as the center of future capabilities development, will be tasked with getting the balance "exactly right," Cone said.
Cone outlined a vision of the future operating environment in which a range of enemies would have access to high-end capabilities and the ability to conduct combined arms maneuvers, in which it will be difficult to distinguish friends from foes, and in which it will be necessary to seize complex terrain over extended distances — all undermining "the idea that warfare can be clean, antiseptic and be achieved without significant bloodshed or significant expenditure of resources."
As the emphasis shifts away from the current wars, the Army is increasingly providing forces to other combatant commands, such as U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Africa Command. Cone also referenced plans to launch regionally aligned brigades, which will train those units in cultural and security issues as part of "prevent and shape" missions.
"The power of this construct is this generation of war fighters. They are used to expending their intellectual energy, and if we bring them back to Fort Riley or have the fighting against the ‘Krasnovians' or ‘Plywoodians,' there's not a lot of interest in that," Cone said. "They're used to dealing with real-world language and cultural endeavors."
For the future of airframes, he said, an improved turbine engine would extend the range, altitude and endurance of the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters.
"As we look at future concepts and look at the future operating environment, aviation is a critical partner, and we have explicitly considered aviation in force modernization plans," Cone said.