UPDATE - This story has been updated to clarify statements made by Maj. Gen. Francis at the AUSA Aviation Hot Topic in response to a specific question posed by Defense News.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army aviation branch is considering whether the future attack reconnaissance aircraft — expected to be fielded in 2030 — would be housed in cavalry squadrons in lieu of attack reconnaissance squadrons, according to the Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
“The Army is looking at whether or not we have a requirement to build reconnaissance and security capabilities into the corps and division level and, if we do, I believe those would include aviation and that could mean FARA is included in those formations, but it is way too early to determine that.” Maj. Gen. David Francis said in a statement.
The Army previously used organic cavalry squadrons for reconnaissance and surveillance functions, Francis said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Aviation Hot Topic forum on Sept. 5. The question now, he said, is “do we need that capability at those echelons, and, if so, how are we going to fill it?”
The issue is something the Army is now grappling with, although it’s still “at the very front end of that discussion right now across the Army,” Francis said at the event, “but it is, in fact, an issue that is being pursued” and is considered a high priority for Army leadership in terms of how the service will source new formations and how many are needed.
The Army last week held a reconnaissance and security summit in Fort Hood, Texas, that included all core commanders in the service and almost all of the division commanders — including some Army National Guard division commanders — to identify necessary future capabilities, and the organizational issue was brought up, according to Francis.
“I will tell you also that every one of those discussions has a component of aviation in it. We don’t think there will be a cavalry squadron that is not an air-ground element or organization as we move into the future,” he said.
With the possible advent of two new helicopters — the future attack reconnaissance aircraft and the future long-range assault aircraft — the Army must identify the types of formations that these aircraft will call home and from which they will carry out missions.
The service will field both helos in the 2030 time frame, and each is going through the states of prototype develoment and evaluations to set requirements, such as operating at high speeds at long ranges with a greater level of agility to face off against near-peer threats.
The Army Futures Command’s Futures and Concepts Center is now in the process of evaluating and redesigning the service’s overall force structure to ensure it is designed for multidomain operations against near-peer competitors Russia and China.