Army National Guard aviation units intend to modernize their equipment so they
can be more closely integrated with the Army’s future force. Yet Guard
officials worry that funding shortfalls and extended military operations will
make this goal unattainable.
By fiscal year 2007, the Guard will have fewer aircraft overall, but more of
its aircraft will be operational, officials said. Some of the Guard aviation
assets are expected to grow, as a result of projected aircraft transfers from
the active-duty Army. The Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk fleet will increase
from 505 to 687, AH-64 Apaches from 128 to 248 (evenly split between A and D
models) and CH-47 Chinooks from 133 to 135.
For several years, the Guard has tried to rid itself of Vietnam-era legacy
aircraft that are frequently grounded due to malfunctions. The AH-1 attack helicopters
were phased out in 2001. The last of its UH-1 Hueys will be gone by 2004 and
the OH-58A/C Kiowa Warriors should be retired by 2005.
“This is a move to take us from legacy systems and the Interim Force
so we can be postured for the Objective Force,” said Col. George Gluski,
chief of the National Guard Bureau’s Aviation and Safety Bureau.
“The [Army] Chief of Staff wanted to put everyone on the same footing,
because we have a lot of legacy airplanes that were not deployable assets. This
puts us on the same level as the active component in terms of modernized systems
as mobilization draws more and more Guard units in,” he said in an interview.
With the new equipment comes a leaner organization that slashes the Guard’s
aircraft fleet by 26 percent. Divisional attack battalions will decline from
13 to nine, and overall aviation companies from 297 to 271. Unit sizes will
also shrink, with divisional attack battalions having 18 helicopters instead
“We have been woefully under-resourced of maintainers at the unit level,”
said Gluski. “For example, an Apache battalion had one mechanic per airplane.
Now they will have two mechanics per aircraft.”
Guard officials, however, worry that the funding that originally had been allocated
for equipment upgrades will diverted to overseas operations and the war on terrorism.
Transformation funding in 2002 was supposed to be $85.6 million, of which the
Army and the Army National Guard received $60 million. The remaining $20.5 million
has been rolled over into a $105 million unfunded requirements for 2003.
Guard modernization priorities are competing with many other unfunded requirements,
noted Col. Jim Barrineau, chief of force management for the Army National Guard.
Guard officials also expressed other concerns, including:
- Equipment shortages. Even with a bonanza of Army cast-downs, the Guard will
be short of 96 UH-60s, 48 AH-64s and 15 CH-47s. For example, the 101st Airborne
Division was scheduled to pass down 38 Black Hawks and 24 AH-64As, yet overseas
commitments have delayed the handover to 2004 or beyond. This will leave four
utility aviation companies with no Black Hawks to replace their UH-1s.
- Aircraft modernization. The aircraft that the Guard will inherit from the
Army will be older models: UH-60As UH-60Ls instead of the M variants the Army
will use, AH-64As instead of Ds, and CH-47Ds instead of Fs. These aircraft will
need to be refurbished, with some AH-64As upgraded to AH-64D Longbows, and UH-60As
to O and then M models. But the Guard has no funds for these modifications,
said Gluski. “Without recapitalization, all we would be doing is trading
in very old UH-1s for 20-year-old UH-60s that are approaching the end of their
proposed useful life.”
- Personnel losses. Aviation personnel will be cut by 2.7 percent, from 25,600
to 24,900. Yet the bulk of the losses are in officer and warrant officer aviator
ranks, slashed by 9.4 percent. More than 500 aviators will be lost, though with
many Guardsman having 20-plus years of service, many will leave through attrition.
- Retraining and Retention. Some 800 pilots and 1,700 enlisted service members
will need retraining on the new aircraft. “I have a company right now
of qualified UH-1 pilots that I now have to train, plus mechanics,” Gluski
said. Money for training pay and allowances is uncertain. It also is questionable
whether the Guard will get the required number of flight school slots at Fort
Rucker, as well as the two National Guard aviation training centers in Arizona
and Pennsylvania. “This could mean flight crews sitting around and mechanics
with nothing to work on as legacy aircraft are phased out,” Gluski said.
“They didn’t join to polish lug nuts on trucks.”
- Quality vs. Quantity. Black Hawks can haul more cargo than Hueys, yet there
will be fewer Black Hawks. “If you are hauling one, two or three passengers,
or transporting people on a shuttle service during state emergencies, then fewer
aircraft isn’t always better,” Gluski said. Guard aviation already
has had to be geographically reshuffled to ensure that every state and territory
has at least some aircraft.
In the meantime, Guard field commanders are making do. Indiana’s 38th
Aviation Brigade is using private contractors to retrain Huey crew chiefs on
Black Hawks, according to Brig. Gen. Timothy Wright, the 38th Infantry Division’s
assistant divisional commander for training. Some school training slots the
brigade had counted on have been gobbled up by the Army.
The brigade has given up its AH-1s and many of its UH-1s to become solely a
transportation and medevac unit. It currently has 11 of the 21 Black Hawks it
needs. Spare parts are scarce, said Wright. “Parts are being intensively
managed.” He expects some spares won’t be available until 2008.
Integration with the Army will require interoperability, especially in communications,
said Army Lt. Col. Leodis Jennings, who works on force management for the Objective
But for now, the Guard is more concerned with current reorganization and funding.
Barrineau predicts that it will take 12-15 years for the Guard to be reorganized
into Objective Force-style units of action, which are mobile brigades with attached
attack and reconnaissance aviation units. “They [the Army] are going to
have to relook the concept of aviation support for the Objective Force. That
really hasn’t been done yet in terms of new concepts and doctrine.”
Guiding the Guard’s reorganization will be the number of units deemed
necessary to support Objective Force units of action. “Until they tell
us what to support, we can’t tell them what we’re going to give
them,” Barrineau added.
A key question is the Army National Guard’s role within homeland security.
Though the U.S. Northern Command has yet to delineate the Guard’s exact
mission for homeland defense, Gluski argues that having aviation assets in every
state put the Guard on the front line of homeland defense. “Who is more
forward-deployed in NORTHCOM now than the National Guard?” Gluski asked.
“We have the capability to respond in all states.”
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