Army Seeking Runway-Independent UAS, Other Aviation Modernization


David Vergun

ATLANTA—A Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system needs a 4,500-foot runway to take off and land, said Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler.

That effectively grounds it over “a broad arc of instability of the world” where terrain precludes that, he said, pointing to a world map.

Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, commander, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, spoke at the Army Aviation Association of America-sponsored 2016 Army Aviation Mission Solution Summit in Atlanta, April 29 and 30.

“At the tactical level, we’ve got to have them more forward-placed and responsive to the needs of the ground commander,” he said. That means they must become less reliant on runways.

The requirement window for a runway-independent UAS is 2025, he said. Another requirement is to have a common controller for multiple types of UAS, instead of the multiple controls currently in use, he added.

Gayler and others also provided updates on other systems.


As a light utility helicopter, the UH-72A Lakota was selected as a replacement for the OH-58A and C Kiowas as well as the UH-1 Iroquois.

While Kiowas were used in combat, the Lakota is definitely “not a hardened combat vehicle,” Gayler said. The Future Vertical Lift will fill that role.

Yet the Lakota has proved useful for a number of missions in the U.S. and it is being used extensively at combat training centers and by the National Guard in medevac missions, he said.

In the past, Lakota was used to work counter-narcotics on the Southwest border and it also was employed in Haiti as part of the relief operations there following the devastating earthquake.

Gayler said the Lakota training program is still in its infancy and it will consist of a mix of simulation and live training. The Army will monitor that training closely to determine if adjustments are needed with program of instruction at flight school, he said.  “We will continue to access effectiveness of that aircraft,” he said. “We’re pleased with it now.”

The Lakota is a slightly modified version of the commercial EC-145 aircraft.


Steffanie Easter, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said the Common Infrared Countermeasures Program, or CIRCUM, “will dramatically increase survivability for Army aviators by providing defense against shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles or MANPADS.”

CIRCUM, a laser-based infrared protection system, is a program of record that is entering the engineering and manufacturing development phase. Milestone C will be reached by the 2nd quarter of fiscal year 2018.


Improved air-to-surface precision standoff strike ability will be answered by the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile, or JAGM, Easter said.

JAGM “will enhance targeting and reduce collateral damage, enabling warfighters to attack fixed and moving targets, even in limited visibility and adverse weather conditions, while being fully effective against a variety of countermeasures,” she said.

JAGM will replace the current air-launched BGM-71 TOW, AGM-114 Hellfire, and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. It is an Army program with joint requirements from the Navy and Marine Corps. It is intended to be placed on Apache helicopters.
By the end of FY17, JAGM will reach Milestone C and qualified production line.

Helicopters & UAS

Brig. Gen. Bob Marion, program executive officer for Aviation, said progress is being made on modernizing the Army’s total helicopter fleet.

“Every time we deliver an AH-64E Apache, we take a D out of the formation. And, every time we deliver a CH-47F Chinook, we take a D model out of the formation,” he said, pointing to a chart that shows timelines for each.

The following is the near-term schedule:

AH-64E V4 Apache

  • Lot 5/6 full-rate production completed by 1st quarter FY17
  • Multi-year contract from 1st quarter FY17 through 4th quarter FY18

HH/UH-60M Black Hawk

  • Multi-year contract 8 ends 1st quarter FY17
  • Multi-year contract 9 begins 1st quarter FY17 through 4th quarter FY21
  • Full-rate production begins 1st quarter FY22

CH-47F Chinook

  • Multi-year contract 2 lot 15 ends 4th quarter FY17
  • Full-rate production begins 1st quarter FY18 through 4th quarter FY21

Gray Eagle UAS

  • Full-rate production IV begins 1st quarter FY17
  • Follow-on operational test and evaluation 1st quarter FY17
  • First delivery 1st quarter FY19 through 4th quarter FY21

Shadow V2 UAS

  • Full-rate production and fielding completed by 4th quarter FY19

The following is the mid-term schedule:

AH-64E V6 Apache

  • V6 software development and flight testing ends 4th quarter FY17
  • Follow-on operational test and evaluation III 2nd quarter FY18
  • Multi-year contract begins 1st quarter FY19 and ends 4th quarter FY21
  • Full-rate production begins 1st quarter FY22

UH-60V Black Hawk

  • Flight testing ends 1st quarter FY18
  • Limited user test 1st quarter FY18
  • Milestone C 4th quarter FY18
  • Full-rate production decision FY19
  • Follow-on operational test and evaluation 2nd quarter FY20

CH-47F BLOCK II Chinook

  • Milestone B 2nd quarter FY17
  • Concept design review 3rd quarter FY17
  • Integrated testing 3rd quarter FY19 through 1st quarter FY21
  • Milestone C 3rd quarter FY21
  • Low-rate initial production 4th quarter FY21 through 4th quarter FY24
  • Full-rate production begins 1st quarter FY25

The following is the long-term schedule:

Joint Multi-Role-Technology Demonstrator

  • (JMR-TD informs development of Future Vertical Lift)
  • First flight and mission architecture demonstration FY17 through FY19

Future Vertical Lift

  • Materiel development decision 1st quarter FY17
  • Materiel solution analysis 1st quarter FY17 through 4th quarter FY20
  • Analysis of alternatives 1st quarter FY17 through 2nd quarter FY18
  • Milestone A 1st quarter FY21
  • Technology maturation and risk reduction 1st quarter FY21 through 4th quarter FY23
  • Milestone B 1st quarter FY24
  • Engineering and manufacturing development 1st quarter FY24 through FY26
  • First aircraft test FY26