DENVER, Colo. — The U.S. Army’s aviation force structure will move away from modular Combat Aviation Brigade designs needed during heel-to-toe rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan and return to a model that tailors those units for specific divisions, according to the service’s branch chief.

“Today we have modular CABs, so every CAB looks the same on paper,” Maj. Gen. Mac McCurry, the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence commander, told reporters April 24 during the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit in Denver. During heel-to-rotations “it was imperative that we’d be able to replace a [heavy] capability with a light capability and those changes to modular CABs happened in the early 2000s,” he said.

The Army is returning to what it did prior to years of operations in the Middle East and will design division-based formations that do not look the same.

For example, McCurry said, “a light infantry division is more reliant on mobility than a heavy division is from the air, those soldiers have to move, rapidly reposition. We’re putting more [UH-60] Black Hawk [utility helicopters] into the light divisions and taking some of those Black Hawks out of the heavy divisions and heavy divisions remain focused on lethality.”

For the 101st Airborne Division, the Army is building an extra battalion of 32 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters to enable air assault. “That helps with the mobility and the ability to do air assault in that division,” he said.

The Army decided as part of a recent rebalancing of aviation capability announced earlier this year that it would buy Boeing-made CH-47F Block II helicopters that it was not previously planning to buy for the active component. Utwill also complete its 12th CAB based in Europe, and has been operating as a partial CAB, he said.

“By moving the aircraft around and slightly adjusting the design, we’re able to build out that 12th CAB in Europe,” McCurry said.

The force structure changes do “a couple of things for us,” he added. “As we looked at our gaps years ago, we said, ‘Hey, we need more reconnaissance and security capacity and we’ve got to be able to air assault, in one period of darkness, a brigade,’ and so that’s where these focuses are.”

According to a controlled but unclassified document obtained by Defense News that lays out the force structure change recommendationsm based off of a recent total analysis assessment, the Army is planning eight heavy CABS and four light brigades.

The units dedicated to heavy and theater enabling capability will be the 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Infantry Division, 2ID, 3ID, 4ID, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and 12 CAB, according to the document.

The three light CABs will be recapitalized under the 10th Mountain CAB, the 25th Infantry Division CAB, the 82nd Airborne Division and the air assault CAB will be with the 101st Airborne, the document notes.

Conversions are planned to begin this year and won’t fully complete until the fall of 2029, the document notes.

The aviation changes are just a part of a wider push to change the Army’s overall structure. Army leaders announced the overhaul earlier this year and said the changes would focus on what the service needs as it transitions from counterinsurgency missions to large-scale combat operations against technologically advanced adversaries.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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