On path toward aviation center of excellence

Organizations uniting
to improve technology

Reprinted with permission of the Redstone Rocket

Staff writer

One of the mandates of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission calls for the formation of a center of excellence for aviation at Redstone Arsenal.

The future of that mandate is shaping up now.

Today is the second in a two-day meeting of members of the Integrated Process Team of the newly formed Aviation Technology Center of Excellence at Redstone Arsenal. The concept, mission and structure of the ATCoE, which is overseen by an Executive Steering Group, will be presented publicly at the Advance Planning Briefings for Industry hosted by the Aviation and Missile Command Aug. 26-27 at the Von Braun Center.

“This is a great vision mandated by Congress to enhance the unique capabilities we have here at Redstone Arsenal,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command. 

“We have a confluence here of universities and educators, engineers and engineering companies, federal agencies, Soldiers and Soldier aviators, acquisition experts, and research and development capabilities. There’s a great deal of activities going on. If we can synergize all that, share information and build the core base of knowledge here it will allow us to do more for our country, be more cost effective and grow our capabilities. It all starts with a vision to create an environment for growth.”

The ATCoE takes advantage of an aviation community that is continuing to grow at Redstone Arsenal with the relocation of the Aviation Technical Test Center, and the continued work of AMCOM, Program Executive Office for Aviation and the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center.  

“The center of excellence will allow us to take advantage of all the synergies enabled by the co-location and integration of these key organizations at Redstone Arsenal,” said Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation. “We can work together closely to develop the aviation capabilities for today and for tomorrow.”

The BRAC mandate allows the Army, Redstone Arsenal and its aviation-oriented tenants to benefit from a growing aviation environment. 

“With so much of the Army aviation community located at Redstone Arsenal, it only made sense to create the ATCoE and locate it here as a way to enhance communication and collaboration,” said Col. Steven Busch, AMCOM G-3 military deputy and director of Future Operations/Joint Integration.

“The Aviation Technology Center of Excellence will have an enterprise approach. Teaming is the concept. Aviation is the platform. We want to come together in our function, mission, goals and activities to build a center of excellence. The assets are already in place. We already have the infrastructure of acquisition, technology, research and development at Redstone Arsenal. We want to learn how to go about the business of building and enhancing synergy of those assets.”

Since the BRAC mandate, Army leadership has closely reviewed the growing aviation capabilities at Redstone Arsenal, and has evolved the initial requirement for a Center of Rotary Wing Air Platform Development, Acquisition, Test and Evaluation into the all-inclusive Aviation Technology Center of Excellence.

“We took a look at the BRAC language and moved down this path,” Busch said. “It’s about building synergy with all the elements already here at Redstone Arsenal to enhance support and efficiencies for the war fighter. What we are building here is expandable.”

Busch has been working on actions pertaining to the BRAC mandate for about a year. On July 10, Myles put the final signature on a memorandum of agreement to create the Aviation Technology Center of Excellence. Others signing the memorandum and who are now members of the ATCoE’s Executive Steering Group include Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau, commander of the Test and Evaluation Command; Crosby, program executive officer for aviation; Dr. Bill McCorkle, director of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center; and Bradley Buswell, under secretary (acting) of the Directorate of Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security.

“The MOA is a starting point,” Busch said. “It is an historical document that sets our vision and mission to provide global research, development, technology and testing solutions to meet current and future needs of land-based manned and unmanned air systems.”

The bottom line is to improve combat effectiveness in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, industry and academia, he said. The ATCoE’s Integrated Product Team, which is chaired by Busch, will take six to nine months to determine recommendations for its missions, functions and structure before taking on specific projects. 

The ATCoE will initially include representation from AMCOM and the Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Test and Evaluation Command, Program Executive Office for Aviation, Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, and Department of Homeland Security.  

“The goal is collaboration and communication,” Busch said. “We do a lot of that already. But we need to codify and be more specific. We need to know what each organization does, how it functions, what its requirements are. Then we will build on that.

“This is all in the early stages. We don’t know what we will look like in the end. It could be as simple as a software system that makes us more efficient or as complex as a structure of brick and mortar that will be the home of this center of excellence. Right now, the key point is, number one, that this center of excellence is a collaboration and communication tool, and, number two, that we are in the early stages.”

Photo by Kari Hawkins

PLAN TAKES FLIGHT-- Col. Steven Busch, a former Apache helicopter pilot, is leading efforts to form the Aviation Technology Center of Excellence at Redstone Arsenal in his duties as the AMCOM G-3 military deputy and director for Future Operations/Joint Integration.

A facility to house the ATCoE is a possibility for the future, Myles confirmed. 

“The signing of the memorandum of agreement shows our intent and commitment to the aviation center of excellence,” he said. “A facility would allow us to further share ideas and to grow this center of excellence.”

The main objective of the ATCoE is to create a center of excellence that will broadcast technology needs, offer multiple and alternative technology sources and solutions; provide efficient access to test facilities and resources; aid in future technology needs identification; fast-track technology transition and acquisition; and assist in acquiring research and development resource.

The ATCoE “will allow us to coordinate directly, closely, and often with the key players in the aviation technology development, integration and qualification processes,” Crosby said. “The center of excellence provides the framework for us to take full advantage of all the capabilities available to us right here at Redstone Arsenal.

“PEO Aviation will be able to efficiently take advantage of all the capabilities of all technical assets available right here at Redstone Arsenal, enabling us to produce the most effective aviation capabilities possible for our war fighters.”

In their initial work, members of the ATCoE’s Integrated Process Team will be focused on how to better develop, acquire, test and evaluate technologies. Then the team will branch out to take on aviation-related projects. For example, Busch said, if PEO Aviation needs a new radio for an aircraft, the ATCoE may determine that the new radio should be developed for all aircraft and across all system platforms, regardless of differences in contracts and organizations. 

While most of the members of the ATCoE currently represent Army aviation organizations located or connected with Redstone Arsenal, it was decided to also seek a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to gain contributions from a wider community of interest and to expand applications beyond the military environment.“This is an expandable team,” Busch said. “By including an organization on the federal level, we are opening the doors of communication. Things we are doing here could benefit other federal agencies, and vice versa. This is about saving money by focusing our assets across the board.”

Eventually, the ATCoE will include members of academia, such as those teaching  rotor wing engineering at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and professional organizations like the American Helicopter Society.

“We want to create a teaming environment that adds structure and value to what we are already doing,” Busch said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or turn everything upside down and recreate it. But we are, right now, on the edge of real growth potential. The organizations on Redstone Arsenal already have a teaming effort, and the same desire and intent to be successful. We want to take that to the next level with the Aviation Technology Center of Excellence.”

Those signing the MOA have high expectations for the ATCoE to provide more efficiencies and better aviation technology in a wartime environment that relies on new technology for success on the battlefield.

“I hope that we can become more efficient in our acquisition efforts and also hope that we can focus our aviation science and technology investments to bring even more capability to bear for the war fighters of the future,” Crosby said.