United States Army Aviation Branch

The United States Army Aviation Branch is the administrative organization within the United States Army responsible for doctrine, manning and configuration for all army aviation units.

After the United States Army Air Corps grew into the Army Air Forces and split into the new service, the United States Air Force, the Army was left with its sole fixed-wing aviation units flying L-2 observation planes for artillery units. The Army would develop a new concept of aviation using the helicopter that would show promise during the Korean War and would revolutionize warfare during the Vietnam War.

Aviation Branch
United States Army Aviation Branch Plaque
CountryUnited States
BranchUS Army
TypeArmy aviation
Garrison/HQFort Rucker, Alabama
Nickname(s)Army Aviation
Motto(s)Above the Best
ColorsUltramarine Blue, Golden orange
Anniversaries12 April 1983
Commanding GeneralMajor General William K. Gayler
Deputy Commanding GeneralColonel Jessie O. Farrington
Command Sergeant MajorGregory M. Chambers
Aviation Branch Insignia
US Army Aviation Branch Insignia
Aircraft flown
Attack helicopterAH-64
Cargo helicopterCH-47
Multirole helicopterMH-6
Trainer helicopterTH-67, UH-72
Utility helicopterUH-60, UH-72
ReconnaissanceMQ-1C, RQ-5, RQ-7, RQ-11
TransportC-12, C-20, C-23, C-26, C-37


Origins of Army Aviation

Army Aviation traces its origins back to the American Civil War. Both Union and Confederate forces used hydrogen-filled balloons to direct artillery fire, marking the beginning of U.S. military aeronautics and of aerial support of Army ground forces. The Army also used balloons during the Spanish–American War and World War I, but airplanes replaced balloons for most military purposes during the latter conflict.

While not part of the present Army Aviation Branch's heritage, United States military aviation began in 1907 with the Army’s acquisition of its first heavier-than-air aircraft, an airplane built to Army specifications by the Wright brothers. During World War I, the Air Service's aircraft strength grew from a few dozen to more than 11,000 planes, and the number of aviation personnel came to total more than 190,000. The Army Air Service was created in May 1918. After World War I, General William Mitchell and other Air Service leaders spoke out forcefully in favor of an independent air force. Since they envisioned aviation as a separate striking force, capable of independent operations, they opposed its remaining a supporting arm of the ground forces. Although Congress, as well as most Army leaders, rejected Mitchell's argument, the Air Service did become a separate combat arm, equal in status to the infantry, cavalry, and artillery. In 1926, the name of the air arm was changed to Army Air Corps, and then, in June 1941, the Air Corps and other Army air elements were merged to form the Army Air Forces, co-equal with the Army Ground Forces and the Army Service Forces.

During the 1930s, many Army Air Corps leaders began to experiment with strategic air operations. Like Billy Mitchell before them, they advocated using air power independently of the Army ground forces to destroy enemy targets behind the lines of combat. This Air Corps emphasis on strategic operations disturbed some ground forces leaders, who believed their aerial support needs were being neglected. Aerial support was particularly vital for artillery fire adjustment. Partly because Air Corps fire support aircraft were not always available, the chief of field artillery and other artillery officers became interested in using light aircraft organic to the artillery units. The Army experimented with using small organic aircraft for artillery fire adjustment and other functions in maneuvers at Camp Beauregard, La., in August 1940. The tests were repeated on a larger scale in the Army maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and the Carolinas in 1941.

Birth of Army Aviation (1942)

Following a final series of experiments with organic Army spotter aircraft conducted in 1942, the Secretary of War ordered the establishment of organic air observation for field artillery—hence the birth of modern Army Aviation—on 6 June 1942. It was this new World War II-era phenomenon with its few small single-engine spotter planes, organic Army Aviation, that eventually evolved into today’s Army Aviation Branch.

Organic Army Aviation first entered into combat in November 1942 on the coast of North Africa. During World War II, L-4 Grasshoppers and a few larger L-5 Sentinels were used to adjust artillery fire, gather intelligence, support naval bombardment, direct bombing missions, and perform other functions. Most training of both pilots and mechanics was conducted by the Department of Air Training within the Field Artillery School at Post Field, Okla., although the Army Air Forces conducted some primary training of organic Army Aviation personnel.

After the creation of the Army Air Forces, the Army Ground Forces retained the use of light aircraft for artillery forward observation and reconnaissance in June 1942. First use of the helicopter in combat is credited to the USAAF 1st Air Commando Group in Burma in 1943. The 1ACG operated six Sikorsky R-4 helicopters primarily for air rescue and medical evacuation.

When the United States Air Force was established as a separate service in 1947, the Army developed its light planes and rotary wing aircraft to support its ground operations. The Korean War and Vietnam War proved the growing capabilities of these aviation assets to perform a variety of missions not covered by the Air Force.

The Korean War provided new challenges and opportunities for Army Aviation. Organic Army Aviation had acquired its first helicopters, thirteen H-13 Sioux, in 1947, shortly before the U.S. Air Force became independent of the Army. In Korea, the Army employed the O-1 Bird Dog and other improved fixed wing planes, but also helicopters. The Army used its H-13s primarily for medical evacuation, command and control, and transport of lightweight and valuable cargo. Because of the rugged terrain of the Korean peninsula, the value of helicopters came to be recognized by all the services; the demand for both helicopters and trained aviators consistently exceeded the supply. In 1951 the Army began organizing five helicopter transport companies and training warrant officer pilots. There was, however, an ongoing rivalry between the Army and the Air Force concerning responsibility and resources for the aerial support of ground forces. Because of this rivalry, and also because of the shortage of helicopters, only two Army transport companies were supplied with H-19 Chickasaw helicopters in time to participate in the Korean War. Transport helicopters nevertheless proved themselves by moving cargo and personnel during the final months of the war and then by participating in prisoner exchanges and other functions after the cessation of hostilities. During the Korean War, the Department of Air Training at Post Field expanded, and in early 1953, it became the Army Aviation School. As a result of the expansion of both aviation and artillery training, Post Field became overcrowded, and the Army decided to move the Army Aviation School to a different post. When no satisfactory permanent Army post was found, a temporary post, Camp Rucker, Ala., was chosen.

The first armed helicopter company was activated in Okinawa in 1962. It was deployed to Thailand and then to Vietnam, where it flew escort for lift helicopters. The Department of Defense did not abolish mission restrictions on the Army's rotary-wing aircraft, thereby technically authorizing the Army to arm helicopters until 1966. The "Howze Board," or "Tactical Mobility Requirements Board," was established in 1962 to develop and test the concept of air mobility. After test exercises, war games, and concentrated study and analysis, the Howze Board recommended that the Army commit itself to organic air mobility – later known as air assault. The Howze Board recommended the extensive use of helicopters to transport infantry troops, artillery, and supplies, as well as to provide local aerial fire support. These recommendations were tested by the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) from 1963 to 1965. In 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was organized and sent to Vietnam, where it repeatedly demonstrated the validity of the airmobile concept in actual combat.

The creation, implementation, and consolidation of the Army Aviation Branch dominated the 1980s. Prominent aviators, as well as other Army leaders, had debated the establishment of Aviation as a separate branch since the time of the Korean War. The opposition to a separate aviation branch had resulted in part from Army attitudes regarding the Army Air Corps and the U.S. Air Force. In Army circles, both of these aviation organizations were believed to have been unreliable in performing their mission of supporting the ground forces—even after having been given resources to do so. Since Army Aviation had demonstrated its commitment to the support of the ground battle in Vietnam, however, opposition to a separate aviation branch began to wane. Also, Army Aviation had grown in size and technological sophistication. This growth caused increasingly complex problems in training, procurement, doctrine development, proponent responsibility, and personnel management. Many non-aviators as well as aviators became convinced that these problems could be solved more effectively by the creation of an aviation branch.

“America’s Helicopter War” Began in Vietnam (1961)

Both Army Aviation and the helicopter came of age during the conflict in Southeast Asia. The most widely used helicopter, the UH-1 Iroquois, or Huey, began to arrive in Vietnam in significant numbers in 1964. Before the end of the conflict, more than 5,000 of these versatile aircraft were introduced into Southeast Asia. They were used for medical evacuation, command and control, air assault; personnel and materiel transport; and gunships. The AH-1 Cobra arrived in 1967 to partially replace the Huey in its gun ship capacity. Other important helicopters in Vietnam included the CH-47 Chinook, the OH-6 Cayuse, the OH-58 Kiowa, and the CH-54 Tarhe. Although the concept of air mobility had been developed with a mid-intensity European conflict in mind, Army Aviation and the helicopter had proven themselves during the low intensity conflict in Southeast Asia.

Under the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966, the Army agreed to limit its fixed-wing aviation role to administrative mission support (light unarmed aircraft which cannot operate from forward positions).

Afterwards, the Army turned its major attention back to the threat of a mid or high intensity conflict in Europe, and doubts reemerged about the value of helicopters in that sort of arena. Some military leaders believed that the helicopter could not survive and perform an essential role in a heavy combat environment. To gain general acceptance and ensure further success, Army Aviation continued to develop new doctrine, tactics, aircraft, equipment, and organizational structure. New or radically modified aircraft were adopted from the late 1970s into the mid-1980s. These included the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, D-model of the CH-47 Chinook, and OH-58D version of the Kiowa.

Birth of Army Aviation Branch (April 1983)

Both Department of the Army and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command conducted extensive studies of the separate-branch question during the 1970s through 1982. In March 1983, the Chief of Staff of the Army recommended forming a separate aviation branch. The Secretary of the Army approved that recommendation on 12 April 1983– the date celebrated as the Branch’s birthday. Aviation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses began at Fort Rucker in 1984, and a gradual consolidation of aviation-related activities followed. In 1986, the U.S. Army Air Traffic Control Activity became part of the branch. In the following year, a Noncommissioned Officers Academy was established at Fort Rucker. In 1988, the Army Aviation Logistics School, which had been dependent on the Transportation Center at Fort Eustis, was incorporated into the Aviation Branch.

Also in 1988, the Army Aviation Modernization Plan was given final approval and implemented. The modernization plan called for a gradual reduction in the number of Army aircraft as older models were replaced by modern ones. Aircraft that appeared during the late 1980s and early 1990s included the armed Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior and the new TH-67 Creek training helicopter, along with the Cessna Citation V and Beechcraft C-12 Huron fixed-wing aircraft.

Army Aviation's role of providing the indispensable vertical dimension to the modern battlefield has become universally recognized. For example, during operations in Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf region, Army Aviation played major and decisive roles. One of the very first blows of Operation Desert Storm was struck by Army Aviation. Apache helicopters destroyed key Iraqi early warning radar sites and thus opened the air corridors to Baghdad for the bombing campaign that preceded the ground war. Then during the 100 hours of ground combat, Army helicopters dominated nighttime operations.

The decreased military budgets following the end of the Cold War forced both the Army and Army Aviation to downsize. Army Aviation’s response was to develop the “Aviation Restructure Initiative,” a plan to decrease the size of the force while continuing to provide a capable, ready force. By the late 1990s, continuing deficiencies and unintended results of the ARI led to a series of aviation plans as key pieces of the Army-wide modernization and transformation. In 2003, the Aviation Branch assumed overall responsibility for unmanned aerial vehicles within the Army. Operations since Desert Storm showed the versatility and flexibility of Army Aviation. Examples were uses of AH-64 Apaches in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans as a deterrent to mobs threatening fellow citizens or paramilitary groups trying to remove weapons from agreed cantonments. The beginning of the Global War on Terrorism in 2001 drew Army Aviation again into ongoing combat. Events in Afghanistan and Iraq have reaffirmed the qualities that caused the creation of Organic Army Aviation in 1942. These qualities included the responsiveness to the needs of the ground commander and commitment to the Soldier in the ground fight. At the same time, Army Aviation – including Army Special Operations Aviation – has played vital and ever-expanding roles across the spectrum of Joint and Combined operations.

In recognition of the demonstrated increasing importance of aviation in Army doctrine and operations, Aviation became a separate branch on 12 April 1983.[1]


The mission of Army Aviation is to find, fix, and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver; and to provide combat, combat support and combat service support in coordinated operations as an integral member of the combined arms team. On the modern battlefield, Army Aviation, unlike the other members of the combined arms team, has the organic flexibility, versatility, and assets to fulfill a variety of maneuver, CS, CSS, roles and functions. These cover the spectrum of combined arms operations. Aviation can accomplish each of these roles—within the limits of finite assets and capabilities—during offensive or defensive operations and also for joint, combined, contingency, or special operations.


Originally aircraft and pilots were assigned directly to artillery or other units requiring light aircraft. In 1957 the Army decided to create individual company sized units in the numbered divisions. These companies were soon expanded to battalion size during the Vietnam war and further expanded in the late 1980s to regimental-sized support elements under a brigade headquarters. (Combat Aviation Brigade)


  • Branch Insignia:
    A silver propeller in a vertical position between two gold wings in a horizontal position, 1 1/8 inches in width. The wings are modified and differ from designs currently used on Army and Air Force aviator badges. The insignia draws upon the original insignia for historical and symbolic purposes, but was deliberately modified to signify a new chapter in Army aviation history.
  • Branch Plaque:
    The plaque design has the branch insignia in proper colors (gold wings with silver propeller). The letters are golden orange and the rim is gold. The background is ultramarine blue.
  • Regimental Insignia:
    Personnel assigned to the Aviation branch affiliate with a specific regiment and wear the insignia of the affiliated regiment.
  • Regimental Coat of Arms:
    There is no standard aviation regimental flag to represent all of the aviation regiments. Each regiment of aviation has its own coat of arms which appears on the breast of a displayed eagle. The background of all the aviation regimental flags is ultramarine blue.
  • Branch Colors:
    Ultramarine blue piped with Golden Orange.
    *Ultramarine Blue – 65010 cloth; 67118 yarn; Reflex blue PMS.
    *Golden Orange – 65003 cloth; 67109 yarn; PMS 1375.
  • Birthday:
    12 April 1983.

See also


  1. ^ "Aviation". The Institute of Heraldry. Headquarters, Department of the Army. Accessed 28 April 2008. Archived 18 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine

External links

10th Aviation Regiment (United States)

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183rd Field Artillery Battalion (United States)

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25th Aviation Regiment (United States)

The 25th Aviation Regiment is an aviation regiment of the U.S. Army.

3rd Aviation Regiment (United States)

The 3d Combat Aviation Brigade is a regiment of the United States Army Aviation Branch. It operates the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. It has been associated with the 3rd Infantry Division (United States) for some time.

52nd Aviation Regiment (United States)

The 52nd Aviation Regiment is an aviation regiment of the U.S. Army.

82nd Aviation Regiment (United States)

The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is part of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

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The Air Power Park is an outdoor, roadside museum in Hampton, Virginia which recognizes Hampton's role in America's early space exploration and aircraft testing. The outdoor park is open year-round, seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Several vintage aircraft and experimental space launch vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s are displayed out of doors. The park is on a 15 acres (6.1 ha) plot and includes a children's playground.

The indoor museum at the center of the park was reopened after a 2011 renovation (with hours more limited than the outdoor part of the park). There are eight themed rooms containing over 325 models of aircraft, space craft, and nautical vessels representing all the U.S. branches of service as well as various model craft from other nations. The park also has a time capsule

Aircrew Survival Egress Knife

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Army aviation

An army aviation unit is an aviation-related unit of a nation's army, sometimes described as an air corps. These units are generally separate from a nation's dedicated air force, and usually comprise helicopters and light support fixed-wing aircraft. Prior to the establishment of separate national air forces, many armies had military aviation units, which as the importance of aviation increased, were spun off into independent services. As the separation between a nation's army and air force led to a divergence of priorities, many armies sought to re-established their own aviation branches to best serve their own organic tactical needs.

Combat Aviation Brigade

A Combat aviation brigade (CAB) is a multi-functional brigade-sized unit in the United States Army that fields military helicopters, offering a combination of attack/reconnaissance helicopters (AH-64 Apache), medium-lift helicopters (UH-60 Black Hawk), heavy-lift helicopters (CH-47 Chinook), and MEDEVAC capability.

Flight envelope

In aerodynamics, the flight envelope, service envelope, or performance envelope of an aircraft or interplanetary spacecraft refers to the capabilities of a design in terms of airspeed and load factor or atmospheric density, often simplified to altitude for Earth-borne aircraft. The term is somewhat loosely applied, and can also refer to other measurements such as manoeuvrability. When a plane is pushed, for instance by diving it at high speeds, it is said to be flown "outside the envelope", something considered rather dangerous.

Flight envelope is one of a number of related terms that are all used in a similar fashion. It is perhaps the most common term because it is the oldest, first being used in the early days of test flying. It is closely related to more modern terms known as extra power and a doghouse plot which are different ways of describing a flight envelope. In addition, the term has been widened in scope outside the field of engineering, to refer to the strict limits in which an event will take place or more generally to the predictable behaviour of a given phenomenon or situation, and hence, its "flight envelope".

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Godman Army Airfield

Godman Army Airfield (IATA: FTK, ICAO: KFTK, FAA LID: FTK) is a military airport located on the Fort Knox United States Army post in Hardin County, Kentucky, United States. It has four runways and is used entirely by the United States Army Aviation Branch.

Group (military aviation unit)

A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. The terms group and wing differ significantly from one country to another, as well as between different branches of a national defence force.

Air groups vary considerably in size and status, but generally take two forms:

A unit of two to four squadrons, commanded by a lieutenant colonel, colonel, commander, naval captain or an equivalent rank. The United States Air Force (USAF), groupes of the French Armée de l'air, gruppen of the German Luftwaffe, United States Marine Corps Aviation, British Fleet Air Arm and some other naval air services usually follow this pattern.

A larger formation, often comprising more than 10 squadrons, commanded by a major general, brigadier general, commodore, rear admiral, air commodore or air vice-marshal. The air forces of many Commonwealth countries, such as the British Royal Air Force (RAF), follow this pattern. In such cases, the group is equivalent to a US wing, a German Geschwader or a French escadron.

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Pakistan Army Aviation Corps

The Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (Urdu: ﺁرمى ایویشن كور; Army Aviation Corps), abbreviated as Avn, is the aviation corps of the Pakistan Army, tasked with providing close aerial combat support and aerial logistics for the Pakistan Army.

Prop and Wings

The Prop and Wings (propeller and wings) is a military insignia used to identify various aviation-related units in the United States military. The Prop and Wings originated as branch insignia of the United States Army Air Service in 1920, and remained such from 1926 to 1947 for the successor United States Army Air Corps. Approximately 90% of all officers serving in the United States Army Air Forces were commissioned in the Air Corps and wore the insignia. Versions of the insignia are still used by the United States Air Force and the United States Army Aviation Branch.

The original Prop and Wings insignia, with rounded wingtips, is currently most closely associated with the United States Air Force Academy. The Prop and Wings is worn by cadets on their flight caps, appears on many of the Academy's class crests, and is part of the logo of the Academy's Association of Graduates. The Prop and Wings insignia is traditionally awarded to Academy cadets at the end of their grueling fourth-class (freshman) year, signifying that they have been "recognized" as upper class cadets.

Cadets in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps are awarded their Prop and Wings insignia after completing Field Training and entry into the Professional Officer Course. Officer Training School allows Basic Officer and Commissioned Officer trainees as well as National Guard Officer Candidates going through the Academy of Military Science to wear the Prop and Wings during the second half of their training.

Although the standard insignia is chrome, cadets from all commissioning sources are authorized to wear a gold Prop and Wings device if they are a direct descendant of a veteran who served in the Army Air Corps, Women Air Force Service Pilots, or were a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.

Squadron (aviation)

A squadron in air force, army aviation, or naval aviation is a unit comprising a number of military aircraft and their aircrews, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force. Land based squadrons equipped with heavier type aircraft such as long-range bombers, or cargo aircraft, or air refueling tankers have around 12 aircraft as a typical authorization, while most land-based fighter equipped units have an authorized number of 18 to 24 aircraft.

In naval aviation, sea-based and land-based squadrons will typically have smaller numbers of aircraft, ranging from as low as four for early warning to as high as 12 for fighter/attack.

In most armed forces, two or more squadrons will form a group or a wing. Some air forces (including the Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Belgian Air Component, German Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, and United States Air Force) also use the term "squadron" for non-flying ground units (e.g., radar squadrons, missile squadrons, aircraft maintenance squadrons, security forces squadrons, civil engineering squadrons, range operations squadrons, range management squadrons, weather squadrons, medical squadrons, etc.).

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