Under Future Soldier, combat aviation will form a key part of how the Army will fight. The newly-formed reconnaissance and attack aircraft for the first timebrings together reconnaissance and attack aircraft for the first time. Formed on April 1, 2020, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade brings together the reconnaissance and attack elements of Army aviation, allowing the Brigade to be a rapidly deployable capability, with wide-ranging utility.
Under Future Soldier, combat aviation – and the Brigade – are central to the Global Response Force, and to how the Army will fight on the future battlefield. The Global Response Force will provide very-high-readiness capability; with 1st Aviation Brigade working with 16 Air Assault Brigade. The Aviation Brigade will be able to support Air Assault troops, or provide an Aviation Task Force (ATF). It can work in the ‘close’ fight – on the frontline, or even beyond it.
Combat Aviation will be part of the Army’s ‘system of systems’ approach to warfighting. Recently described in a report by the Royal United Services Institute as ‘one of the most lethal and agile Brigades in the Army,’ the Brigade can deploy rapidly and over large distances. Given its relevance, a new Aviation Brigade Combat Team (BCT) forms part of the Future Soldier transformation plan.
Under Future Soldier, every aspect of how the Army is organised and equipped will be looked at. As a Brigade, 1st Combat Aviation is also modernising how they recruit and train their people. This includes Project MORDEN, which will review the end-to-end Army Air Corps recruitment and retention. Parallel work is ongoing with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), who repair and maintain the aircraft.
Integration is essential for a modernised, digitally-connected Army. The transformation plan will bring 50 new ‘E’ model Apache (AH64E) – said to be the best attack helicopter in the world. It will have digital connectivity, and be capable of commanding and flying drones, something known as advanced teaming. Wildcat, the reconnaissance helicopter, is also a world-class aircraft. Designed and manufactured in the UK, the Wildcat is made in Yeovil, close to where the Wildcat Regiment is based. It replaced the Gazelle, and represents a significant improvement in capability.
Next-generation capability is also set to become integral to the Brigade, and the way it operates. Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) – or drones – are likely to be used alongside the reconnaissance element of the force; ultimately replacing some current capability. Air Launched Effects – a tube which fires mini-UAS for a range of effects – is one possible innovation.