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This article was Originally Published on Oct 01, 2002 in Volume: 1  Issue: 5

Flying Into the Future

Interview with General William

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps

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Upon graduation from the University of New Mexico in 1968, General Nyland was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps under the NROTC program. In addition to attaining an M.S. degree from the University of Southern California, his formal military education includes The Basic School (1968), Naval Aviation Flight Training (NFO) (1969), Amphibious Warfare School (1975), Navy Fighter Weapons School (TopGun) (1977), College of Naval Command and Staff, Naval War College (1981), and Air War College (1988). Variously throughout his career, Nyland has served with VMFA-314 and VMFA-115 in Vietnam (122 combat missions); VMFAT-101 as RIO instructor; VMFA-115 as squadron operations officer; VMFA-212 as director of safety and standardization; U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington D.C. in the congressional liaison/budget office; and Marine Aircraft Group-24 as operations officer. He commanded VMFA-232, the Marine Corps’ oldest and most decorated fighter squadron, from July 1985 to July 1987. Nyland also served on the Joint Staff, J-8, as deputy director for Force Structure and Resources, and was promoted to major general on July 2, 1997, when he assumed duties as deputy commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejuene. He was advanced to lieutenant general on June 30, 2000, after serving as commanding general, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS Cherry Point, NC; and proceeded to serve as deputy commandant for Programs and Resources, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. On August 2, 2001, Nyland assumed the post of deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation. He was then  promoted to general on September 4, 2002, and assumed his current duties on September 10, 2002.

Nyland was interviewed by MAT while he was still deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation.

Q: What are the critical programs for USMC aviation in the near term, mid-term and long-term?

A: The primary transformation platforms will be JSF and V-22. However, when taken as a total system, Marine aviation will be fielding very sophisticated platforms in the way of KC-130J [upgraded cargo plane, the “Hercules”], UH-1Y [upgraded “Huey” helicopter], AH-1Z [“Super Cobra” attack helicopter], and our Common Aviation Command and Control System [CAC2S]. Together, the total of all these systems will transform the way we pass information throughout the battlespace. So, the Air Combat Element of the future will have sensors, Digital Communication System [DCS] 2000 radios, and sophisticated targeting systems that will allow the MAGTF [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] commander to better build his situational awareness of the battlespace.

Q: What will be the greatest contribution of the MV-22 [Marine version of the tilt-rotor, vertical take-off and landing plane] to the future ACE [Aviation Combat Element]?

A: The V-22 will provide us with the speed, range, self-deployability and survivability that cannot be matched by any helicopter. It will allow us to maneuver from great distances to a point of advantage in the battlespace.  Its speed will also allow us to increase our ability to rapidly build up forces in any area of contention to ensure our MAGTF commander has the right force, in the right place, and at the right time. The V-22 will be truly transformational by providing the future ACE [Aviation Combat Element] with the ability to rapidly deploy, employ and redeploy Marine forces.

Q: How do you see the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] affecting the USMC/USN integration effort?

A: The JSF is the “leap ahead technology” we are seeking to bring our tactical air assets into the 21st century. It will allow us to maneuver and strike an adversary without him knowing we are there. The integration of its various systems will allow the JSF pilot of the future to have total situational awareness of his or her environment, which will make him or her a more formidable opponent. JSF will demonstrate and validate the flexibility of VSTOL [vertical/short take-off and landing concept]. Whether operating off an L-class ship [i.e., amphibious warfare ship], a carrier, or an austere expeditionary base, the STOVL [short take-off and vertical landing] JSF will bring unparalleled flexibility to the joint task force [JTF] commander. It is critical to the Tac-Air [tactical air] integration effort with the Navy. We cannot do without it.

Q: Is the H-1 Modernization Program an interim solution, since it will field assets that will be unable to serve as an escort platform to the MV-22 Osprey?

A: The H-1 modernization program brings both the AH-1 [Cobra] and UH-1 [Huey] into the 21st century. They will have a common, improved power train; integrated “glass cockpits”; and sensors that will allow them to provide information to the MAGTF commander in a near-real-time basis. The AH-1Z [Super Cobra] will be the premier gunship that will fight in the 21st century. The UH-1Y [modernized Huey] will be a superior command and control platform for the MAGTF Commander. The fact that they won’t physically escort the V-22 only means we will have to adjust our tactics to accommodate that fact. Whether or not we look at another escort platform for the V-22 will have to be studied. But these H-1 platforms will be the “urban fighters” for the ACE of the future.

Q: You often talk about the importance of the Marine Wing Support Group [MWSG] and the Marine Air Control Group [MACG]. Why are these two elements so important in your mind?

A: You are right on the mark! What truly makes Marine aviation unique is its ability to fly into a theater, build an expeditionary airfield, sustain itself out of that airfield and do so in a timeline no one else can match. Our MWSGs allow us to do that. Once in the theater you need to tap into the joint task force or coalition force C4 communications architecture and our MACGs are capable and equipped to do so. We are working hard to ensure our equipment is lighter and more capable for the future MWSGs and MACGs.  Remember, we in Marine aviation have been doing expeditionary ops throughout our history; it is our primary focus, a way of life, and our ethos.

Q: Will the KC-130J be a real force multiplier in the future, based on your Operation Enduring Freedom experiences?

A: I cannot express how proud we are of the KC-130s who supported OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom].  They did so in our oldest platform. They did so with the pride and professionalism of true warriors. Others may have hesitated on some of the missions, but our “Herc” crews were there when they were needed—providing over 6.5 million pounds of fuel to TF 58, as well as moving thousands of people and millions of tons of supplies. The loss of our KC-130 reinforces the critical need to replace our old F/R models with the KC-130J. In addition to better speed and reliability, the KC-130J will provide us with the night vision device capability we so desperately need.

Q: What will be the mix for the Air Combat Element for the future MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]?

A: We are in the process of studying that real hard. We do know that the V-22, JSF, AH-1Y/Z, UH-1Y and CH-53E [Marine heavy lift helicopter, the “Super Stallion”] will provide the MEU with a capability that will be truly robust. How we shape those ACEs will be dependent on mission, ship platform and JTF commander requirements. With greater capabilities, some say you need less [assets]. I would argue that you should be focused on the mission and not the size of the ACE. The ability to generate sorties will be much more robust and allow the JTF and MAGTF commanders greater flexibility. We are working closely with the Navy to develop future concepts of operation that will significantly enhance our naval warfighting capabilities. One of these concepts, Expeditionary Strike Groups, will focus on increasing the lethality and survivability of our traditional Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) and MEUs—the STOVL JSF will play a pivotal role in our future strike capabilities.

Q: How do you evaluate the young Marines who are asking to serve in aviation? Are they better or brighter?

A: Simple-they are fantastic! They are bright, enthusiastic, and dedicated as any Marine in the past. Like all Marines, they are focused on doing the job and performing in an exceptional manner. They handle, maintain, and repair the most sophisticated equipment in our inventory. I am truly impressed, on a daily basis, how special they are to the Corps and this nation. We are all blessed that the parents of this nation have entrusted our Corps with our nation’s finest.

Q: How important is aviation to the Marine Corps of the future? Can the Corps do without Tac-Air?

A: [Aviation is] absolutely vital. Marine aviation is critical to our MAGTFs and Tac-Air is a must for us!  It provides the firepower for the MAGTF in an expeditionary nature. It will provide forward deployed aviation assets to the JTF which will allow for more responsive missions. Remember, no matter how well one plans, once the fighting begins we have to be responsive to the MAGTF’s efforts and the Marines on the ground. Tac-Air provides the heavy punch required and provides the rapid response to the very dynamic and non-linear battlespace of the future.

Q: If you could buy more capability, what would that capability be?

A: We just completed an update of our Marine Aviation Requirements Study (MARS) last summer. What it reported was this: We have it about right in the capabilities we are buying for the future. It validated that an ACE with JSF, V-22, AH-1Y/Z, UH-1Y and CH-53E can build and sustain a force at a more rapid rate then what we can do today. That fact is hard to argue against. It provides the MAGTF commander with greater flexibility to go farther and faster, thus increasing our operational reach and influence. It is easy to be excited about the future with such capability and platforms coming into service. I believe we have it right and feel it is more important to stick with our “vision” of necking down [i.e., reducing] type, model, series aircraft so we are affordable, yet much more capable then ever before. So, I think we are buying the right capabilities. If I could change anything, it would be to buy these systems at a much quicker pace. 

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