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Army to bolster aviation support.

The Army will add a new combat aviation brigade to the force and will also soon increase the number of aircraft in medical evacuation companies.

Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, Army G-3/5/7, said no transformational change to the aviation force is more important or consequential than the decision to increase aircraft in medevac companies from 12 to 15.

"We've got to get our men and women off the battlefield--that's non-negotiable," Thurman said at the annual AUSA Aviation Symposium and Exhibition Jan. 6.

"We've also added nine additional medevac companies to the reserve component," he said.

The priority for boosting medevac support will be Afghanistan, Thurman said, forecasting that the first transformed 15-ship company will arrive in late spring.

Thurman also mentioned the standup of a new combat aviation brigade, saying it would be designated as the 16th CAB in honor of the 16th Aviation Group, whose heritage dates back to the Vietnam War.

"The brigade will be formed by recognition of current assets from within the active component," Thurman said, "and while all aircraft and crews required to establish the 16th... are already in the force, the Army must add approximately 700 Soldiers to the force to stand up the assault helicopter battalion and aviation support battalion structures."

According to the general, the next major structural change in Army aviation under consideration by Army leadership involves a potential restructuring of four remaining active-component heavy combat aviation brigades and one light combat aviation brigade to full-spectrum design.

"This decision is being considered along with a decision to restructure the armed reconnaissance squadron to a design featuring three troops of OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and two platoons in Shadow tactical unmanned systems," Thurman added.

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"The manned/unmanned teaming concept will serve to provide real-time ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) support within the CAB and fully maximize the capabilities for both systems so we meet the ground commanders' needs," he said.

The general also addressed the 400-percent growth of unmanned aircraft systems flight hours, noting those hours to have increased from 500 hours flown by only three UAVs a decade ago to more than 180,000 flown hours by more than 1,700 UAVs in 2009.

"We know the integration of unmanned aircraft systems with our maneuver forces into a single, cohesive combat capability is paramount," he said.

--ARNEWS/J.D. Leipold

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Title Annotation:On Point
Author:Leipold, J.D.
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:391
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