A long video of gun camera footage from a team of Apaches working in Afghanistan.
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The 1st Battalion, 227 Aviation Regiment has a long proud history. Former member, and long time friend of the blog, Outlaw 13 collaborated with several others, and international film and television star Nick Searcy, to produce a great tribute to the unit. It’s well worth your time.
Spotted over at WeaselZippers, a tardy Taliban realizes the temporary nature of life.
I’ll grant, strictly for the sake of argument, that the Marine Corps is a fine fighting organization.
But one thing they can’t seem to do is buy aircraft in a way that makes any kind of sense. At all. I can’t think of a single aircraft procurement program the Marines have run well since the UH-1N program. And that was mostly run well because the Twin Huey was first built for the Canadians. The Marines just bought what someone else designed.
The legacy aircraft of the Marines, the UH-1N, the CH-46E/F, the CH-53E, the AH-1W, and the AV-8B are all pretty much overdue for replacement. But with the exception of the replacement for the CH-53E, the replacement programs have been a series of disappointingly expensive products that either offer less capability than other aircraft available off the shelf, or “revolutionary” aircraft that are so expensive that they can’t be risked in combat, and don’t fit in with other aspects of the Marines.
The Marines currently plan to replace the UH-1N/AH-1W with the UH-1Y/AH-1Z. What started in the mid-1990s as a relatively modest program to upgrade both aircraft has grown into a monstrosity that has all the expense of a brand new aircraft program, but no great leap in capability. Instead of upgrading the UH-1s, the modifications are so extreme, the contractor came back and got permission to build new airframes.
The CH-46 has provided well over 40 years of faithful service, and is assuredly due for retirement. But its replacement, the MV-22B Osprey is a fantastically expensive aircraft that has virtually no self defense capability, can only lift 24 Marines at a time, is very expensive to operate, and has such hot exhaust that the decks of the ships it is to operate from require extensive modification. During development, the MV-22 had a series of high-profile accidents that led many people to worry that it was a death-trap. I’m not too concerned about that. It is very normal for new aircraft to have a high accident rate as people learn to operate it. And it is almost certain to be safer than the tired old CH-46s it replaces. But that doesn’t mean the program makes sense. And it appears that the Marines may be up to some shennanigans in trying to hide its true safety record. Any time you have to compromise your integrity for a procurement program, things are not good.
The replacement for the AV-8B is slated to be the F-35B, a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter program. The problem with this program is that whereas if the Air Force and Navy had simply tried to come up with a common airframe for the carrier based and land based variants, the tradeoffs would have been rather small. There’s a very long history of Navy aircraft working very well for the Air Force. See the F-4, A-7, and even the A-1 Skyraider. But when you put the Air Force in charge of developing a Navy aircraft, you get programs like the F-111. Sure, the Air Force gets a nice plane, but the Navy gets screwed. In the case of the F-35, you end up with something even weirder. The smallest partner of the program, the USMC, ends up driving so many of the requirements of the basic airframe that you just have to wonder what compromises were forced onto the other variants. The entire F-35 program has been wrapped around the STOVL variant. It’s a lot easier to take a
STOVL design and design a conventional variant than it is to take a conventional plane and make it STOVL. So what compromises had to be made for this? And aside from having a half dozen on each big-deck amphibious ship, when do the Marines operate their Harriers in a STOVL mode? They don’t. They operate them from conventional airfields, just like any other plane, including their F-18s. So we end up having to pretty much double the development cost of the F-35 program, just so they can own a variant that doesn’t do as much as they other services, at greater cost? That’s stupid.
Now, I’m not saying the Marines should get out of the aviation business. At the tactical and operational level, they do a fine job. And the Marine Corps has been organized and trained since before WWII to integrate ground, air, and logistics forces to produce the optimum balance of firepower and strategic mobility.
But they can’t figure out how to buy aircraft to save their asses. So what should be done? Well, all is not gloom. Despite very poor choices, there are readily available platforms that the Marines could adopt or adapt that would go a long way to recapitalizing their aircraft inventory, while spending as little as possible, freeing funds up for full procurement, training, operations, and maintenance. Let’s take a look at a notional replacement program for the Marine air fleet.
Legacy platform: UH-1N. Current replacement: UH-1Y. What should replace it: H-60 platform.
It isn’t like the H-60 hasn’t been operated at sea for the last quarter century. Blackhawk/Seahawk helos are currently in production, fully capable of being operated from all the amphibious platforms the Marines operate from, and would benefit from commonality of training, spares, and production. Instead, the Marines have gone with a new production aircraft, with new construction prices, and all the associated development costs, and the lost decade of development time, to build a Huey that has characteristics similar to an early H-60. This is such a no-brainer, I’m amazed the Navy didn’t put its foot down and insist on the Marines buying H-60s.
Legacy platform: AH-1W. Current replacement: AH-1Z. What should replace it: AH-64.
The Cobra has been a fine attack helicopter. Earlier versions were the very first designed for purpose attack helos. But what benefit do the Marines get from the Zulu that they wouldn’t get from a navalized Apache? Again, you lose out on the cost efficiencies of scale with a standardized airframe. For what the Marines are paying for Zulus, they could buy just as many Apaches.
Legacy platform: CH-46. Current replacement: MV-22B. What should replace it: Either the S-92, the CH-47 Chinook, or nothing.
The Marines medium lift, indeed, the core of the Corps aviation, the CH-46, needs to go. Not because the Phrog is bad, just that it is worn out. It is slow, has a small payload, and a short range. The current replacement, the MV-22, is fast, has a good range and a decent payload. But, depending how you count it, it costs about $44 million for just one. And it is a maintenance hog. Can we really afford to spend half a billion dollars for one squadron of helos? And that speed comes with some real problems. For instance, there is no helicopter escort capable of keeping up with it. So there’s no fire support. And because of its unique configuration, the Osprey can’t really mount much in the way of self defense. So we are buying an incredibly expensive aircraft, that costs a lot more than others to operate, that can’t go into any areas that might be defended. Where is the advantage there?
As for replacement aircraft, there’s several options. One is the Sikorsky S-92, which is something like an H-60 on steroids. This would give the Marines a medium lift helicopter with similar capabilities in terms of payload, while sacrificing speed for lowered cost. It would also benefit from commonality with the H-60 series.
Another option is to just not operate medium helicopters at all. The Army model for air mobility uses light transports such as the H-60 and heavy transports such as the CH-47. The Marines could well opt to remove the CH-46s from their air wings, replace them with a combination of H-60s and a few more heavy lift helos such as the CH-53. One problem here is that the Marines already face something of a shortage of CH-53s, with the next generation not slated to join the fleet until 2015. My solution? Buy the Chinook. The CH-47 is technically a medium lift helicopter, coming in somewhat under the size of the CH-53. And while it is somewhat larger than the -46, a decent number could still fit on the deck of an LHD or LHA(R), and still provide greater lift capability than the dozen or so CH-46s a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron would provide. And while the Chinook is slower than the Osprey, it isn’t all that much slower. Plus, it can carry more than twice as much payload. So for a given period of time, say three hours, at a given distance from the ship, say 75 miles, you’d actually end up moving more Marines ashore with 10 Chinooks than you would with 10 Ospreys. And don’t forget, the Chinook costs less upfront to buy, and less to operate.
Legacy platform: AV-8B. Current replacement: F-35B. What should replace it: F-35C, F/A-18E/F, Nothing.
The Marines have a long, long history of providing their own fixed-wing close air support for their ground troops. They were among the very first folks to figure out that CAS was a tough mission, and find ways of doing it well. They were certainly among the first to demonstrate that CAS was a great combat power multiplier, engaging targets that they didn’t have the artillery to engage. But much of Marine fixed-wing air has been subsumed into the greater maw of Navy Air, with Marines routinely providing F-18 squadrons to Navy carrier air wings, not to provide CAS, but because the Navy faces a severe shortage of fighters. Practically the only Marine jets still fulfilling their historical role of dedicated support to ground troops are the Harriers. But even they find themselves not just supporting Marines on the ground. Harriers are routinely tasked to support Army and foreign coalition troops. And they rarely operate from anything other than fixed airbases that are fully capable of supporting regular fixed wing aircraft. And likely as not, if the Marine on the ground in Afghanistan today calls for air support, he’ll get it from the Navy or the Air Force.
So do we sink several billion dollars into the STOVL variant of the F-35 (which can’t, BTW, operate from the Navy’s regular carriers) just so 8-10 can go to sea with each Marine battalion? Or do we equip the Marines with the carrier capable F-35C to provide the fixed wing air support for the Marines? Do we equip them with the currently in-production F/A-18E/F Superhornet that the Navy is buying? Or do we do away with Marine fixed-wing air and allow them to concentrate on rotary-winged air mobility?
The Marines have consistently displayed an inability to wisely spend the acquisition dollars granted to them for their aircraft. When will we stop this?
Here’s a friendly tip. If you’re gonna shoot at US troops, don’t do it when there’s not one, but TWO Apaches flying overwatch.
Whenever we are pressed for time to write, or just uninspired, we steal from Theo Spark. He and his co-bloggers always find some good stuff.
Again, we watch a patrol of light infantry in the hills and hamlets of Afghanistan. The placard calls it a movement to contact, which is a term of art for an attack when you don’t know where the enemy is. The idea is to move forward in a sector until you find him. In addition to the laudable goal of finding and killing enemy insurgents, a movement to contact is used to generate tactical intelligence. You’ll notice the patrol is speaking with villagers, presumably asking if there is any insurgent activity in the area, and if so, what type. Of course, there’s also a “show the flag” aspect of this as well, letting the locals see you and know that you are watching.
Some NSFW language, but as I’ve said, that’s what you get from grunts.
We’ve talked before about how the post-Vietnam era Army found itself facing down an enormous Soviet Group of Forces in East Germany, and struggling to find a way to deter them from rolling over NATO forces.
The standard Soviet tactic was the echelon attack. A US brigade might find itself under attack by a full Soviet Motor-Rifle Division. Fair enough. As a rule of thumb, units in the defense are expected to be able to handle an attack by a force up to three times their size. The problem came when the second echelon of Soviet forces would slam into our US brigade, before they have had time to reset after the first attack. And if the second echelon didn’t break through, there was a third echelon behind that. Sooner or later, our US brigade would be overwhelmed.
The key to defeating the echelon attack was to disrupt the follow-on second and third echelons. We’ve discussed the Cobra and Apache attack helicopters in the deep strike role. And the Air Force would do its part by performing interdiction missions, dropping bridges, disrupting supply and fuel depots.
But there was another tactic, designed to compliment the strenghts and minimize the weaknesses of attack helicopters and close air support aircraft like the A-10. That was the Joint Air Attack Team, or JAAT. Utilizing artillery, scout and attack helicopters, Airborne Forward Air Controllers, and close air support aircraft like the A-10, a JAAT could overwhelm the air defenses of a Soviet unit and pound it into the dirt. Even if the unit wasn’t destroyed, it would be so disrupted that it couldn’t keep to its schedule. This would buy our defending ground brigade time to reset from the first echelon and prepare for its attack.
Here’s a training film from either the late 70′s or early 80′s showing the basic concept.
With the exception of the A-10, all the platforms shown have been replaced. The M-60 tanks have been replaced by M-1s, the OH-58 scouts by updated OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, the AH-1Qs by AH-64s, and the OV-10 by modified OA-10A’s. Still, the basic concept is still a viable one.
There were a couple of real challenges to making a JAAT work. First, airspace management. It can be a real challenge making sure artillery rounds and airplanes don’t occupy the same airspace. For obvious reasons, the aviators, both Army and Air Force are kinda picky about that. There’s also the challenge of making sure the helicopters and fixed wing air know where each other are, to avoid collisions.
The other challenge was timeliness. It takes some time to put a JAAT together. If the JAAT takes too long to assemble, it can miss its chance to catch the follow on echelon. But if units have trained together before, and have worked out the kinks, it can be put together much more quickly.
We pretty much gave up on watching 60 Minutes after the Memogate fiasco with Dan Rather. So we were pleasantly surprised to see this mostly objective piece on the fight in Afghanistan that aired last fall.
Be advised, there are some graphic images, so discretion at work is advised.
We’re not going to get around to writing much today, so here’s some clips cribbed from Right Wing Video.
There’s some NSFW language, so turn the sound down.
A couple quick notes, we’ve talked about the TOW missile system here before, and even shown videos. You can tell this is video from Marine Cobras because they are shooting TOWs. Apache’s don’t shoot TOWs. In some of the scenes, you can see the missile as a white dot dancing around the reticle. In the shot at the tank under the bridge, you get an idea of just how long it can take for a TOW to reach its target.
One of the trends we’ve seen in recent years is precision weapons causing warheads to get smaller.
For many years, the goal of warplane designers was to greatly increase the payload of their designs. With unguided bombs, it took a lot of bombs to hit a target. For instance, on a typical raid, my dad would carry 22 Mk82 500lb bombs into North Vietnam. And this was a plane that was considered a precision strike aircraft back then. Precision meaning they could find a target like a steel mill at night or in bad weather. Just find it. Precision meant that at least some of the bombs would land on the steel mill.
Eventually, laser guided bombs made their debut in Vietnam (way back in 1967!) greatly increasing the accuracy of weapons. How much? For several years, the US had been bombing the Dragons Jaw Bridge in an attempt to cut the supply lines. They had lost quite a few aircraft and crews, but never succeeded in permanently destroying the bridge. Finally, in 1972, F-4′s dropping 2000lb laser guided bombs managed to drop the bridge.
Laser guided bombs first really entered the public conscious in Desert Storm. Videotape of the bombs unerringly hitting their targets was seen worldwide on CNN and other outlets. “Smart bomb” entered the lexicon. But here’s the thing. LGBs aren’t that smart at all. Ever play with a cat and a laser pointer? The cat just chases the laser dot wherever it goes? That’s exactly what an LGB does. The brains are really the sensor that points the laser. The first lasers were simply a box that the Weapon System Officer in the back seat of a Phantom pointed out the window. It worked, but just barely. Eventually, pods that mounted a laser coaxially with a TV camera fed a picture to the scope in the rear cockpit. The great advantage there was the system could be stabilized to account for the movement of the jet. Soon, a thermal Forward Looking Infra Red camera was mounted, allowing the jet to see targets in the dark. When we saw the videos of LGBs in Desert Storm, that was what we were seeing.
Pretty soon after LGBs were first used, it became clear to a lot of smart folks that using a laser to guide weapons would work for more than just big bombs. The Hellfire missile was designed to kill the massive numbers of Soviet tanks in Western Europe, should Ivan ever get frisky. The Hellfire was (and still is) the primary weapon of the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The big advantages of the Hellfire over previous helicopter mounted anti-tank missiles was that it had far greater range (so the bad guys couldn’t shoot at you as much) and it flew a lot faster.
Now, we’ve talked about HEAT warheads missiles like the Hellfire have. Great for killing tanks, but not so much for blowing up Jihadis. Simply switching warheads fixed that problem. But another problem with the Hellfire is it costs a lot of money. Also, helicopters can only carry so many.
Right now, one other option Apache crews have for toasting bad guys is the 2.75″/70mm rocket. We’ve been mounting rockets on helicopters a long time now. The 70mm rocket is a handy weapon, but it is unguided, so to hit a target, the chopper has to get uncomfortably close to the bad guys. We don’t really like to do that. Given the advances in modern electronics, someone came up with the bright idea of mounting a laser-seeker on the nose of a 70mm rocket. The program was originally called APKWS for Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. LockheedMartin is the prime contractor and they’ve named the weapon DAGR. I’m sure DAGR is an acronym for something, but LockMart doesn’t say on their website. Still, it’s a bright idea. Now, instead of having to shoot from 1000 meters or less, our helo bubbas can pop one of these from several thousand meters. Just the thing for hitting a truck full of Talibanis. And since it is so much smaller and lighter than a Hellfire, our Apaches can carry several more:
The program is still under development. Ground test firing has begun.
Click link for video.
What’s that? You wanna see some more Apaches? Well, just this once.
One of the nice things about the way the Army paints its helicopters is that no one can catch a side number and rat you out for flathatting…
It may seem a little foolish to use a multi-million dollar tank hunter to chase after a cheap wooden boat, but you don’t see me complaining.
When I put up my post on the Apache development, I asked BillT from Castle Argghhh! to take a look and let me know if I’d made any colossal blunders. As I fired off the email, I knew in my bones he was going to come back with a word about the Apache’s daddy, the venerable AH-1 Cobra. How did I know this? Bill is a retired Army Aviator (in fact, I believe he’s a Master Aviator), with combat time in Vietnam and long experience in attack and scout aviation. My request was like asking the owner of a ’64 Mustang to give me his thoughts on the new Dodge Magnum. Sure, he’ll help, but you know he’s gonna want to talk a little Mustang.
Almost from the first helicopter, people had the bright idea to arm them. Everyone in the Army knows to seek the high ground, and how much higher can you get than in a helicopter? But the concept was easier than the implementation. Early helicopters had little power, and were only able to lift relatively small loads. Think back to the opening shots of M*A*S*H. Not a lot of room there for lifting heavy stuff. Early helicopters were powered by piston engines. You could use a bigger engine to get more power, but the weight of the engine increased faster than the improvement in power. It wasn’t until the invention of the gas turbine that lightweight, powerful helicopters became a reality.
A gas turbine is a jet engine that transfers its power to a drive shaft, instead of pushing air out the back. The first practical gas turbine powered helicopter was the UH-1B Iroquois, far better known as the Huey. Early in the Vietnam war, Huey’s began to be used to ferry troops to the battle, saving time that would otherwise be spent walking in the woods. Unfortunately, the VC learned that they could predict where the Huey’s would land, and soon began laying ambushes for them. The Huey’s were tough, capable birds, but they can only take so much damage. What was needed was an escort to keep the VC’s heads down while the Huey’s landed and offloaded their troops. The Army quickly developed an armed version of the Huey, equipping it with machine guns and 2.75” rockets, just the thing to discourage the VC from shooting at the transports.
While the new gunship escorts were a great improvement over nothing, they still weren’t perfect. The extra weight of the guns, rockets and ammunition actually left the escorts slower than the transports.
The Army and Bell Helicopter took the parts of the helicopter that they liked, such as the rotor, transmission and basic engine, and developed a specialized gunship. By using a more powerful version of the basic engine (and not many aviators will ever complain about having more power) and using the smallest possible body, they were able to introduce a chopper that was both faster than the transports and more heavily armed than previous gunships. The AH-1G would be the Army’s primary gunship in the Vietnam war. Over 1,000 were produced.
Armed with two 6-barreled 7.62mm Mini-guns and 2.75” rocket pods, the AH-1G Cobra had plenty of firepower to suppress the VC when transports were landing or taking off at an LZ. In addition, they were used to provide close support for troops on the ground. In fact, some units were used primarily for this and were designated Ariel Rocket Artillery Battalions. Many a grunt blessed the familiar “Whop-whop-whop” sound of a Cobra overhead.
After the Vietnam War, the Army turned its attention back to Western Europe. The Army was in bad shape and facing a truly massive Soviet army. With budgets tight, forces demoralized and equipment obsolete, how would the Army be able to defeat the Soviets and prevent them from conquering Western Europe. The Army had a large supply of Cobras on hand, but rockets and Mini-guns were next to useless against tanks and armored personnel carriers. The answer lay with the TOW missile. TOW stands for Tube Launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided missile. With a range of 3000 meters and a warhead capable of destroying any tank, the 70 pound missile gave the Cobra the firepower it needed to be useful on the battlefields of Europe. A new 20mm three barreled cannon was also added to deal with targets like trucks.
With this new, powerful anti-tank weapon, Army aviators began thinking beyond the front lines. By using the mobility of helicopters, they could search out and attack Soviet formations behind the front lines, before they were attacking our troops. In conjunction with the evolution of what would become AirLand Battle doctrine, the concept of “Deep Strike” came to be accepted. No longer would aviators be thought of as glorified truck drivers or simply flying artillery, but as Cavalry in the tradition of JEB Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
BillT was kind enough to give me his thoughts on the subject (see comments) and better yet, send pictures!
Believe it or not, the Army didn’t spend millions upon millions of dollars developing the Apache just so you could watch clips of it smokin’ jihadis on YouTube. Mainly because YouTube didn’t exist when they came up with it.
After the end of the Vietnam war, the Army found itself with old, obselescent and poorly maintained forces facing a massive Soviet Army in Western Europe. The need to recapitalize and re-equip the forces was great, but the defense budget was tight. Military spending was unpopular and the mood in the country was fairly isolationist. The Army was one of the least trusted institutions in the country. The leadership was faced with a problem familiar to managers and leaders everywhere- a huge task and very little in the way of resources.
The development of the Apache took place in this arena of limited budgets, and was a product not only of the state of the art in aerospace engineering, but also of changing ideas of how best to fight a war. As the development began, The 1973 Yom Kipur war showed just how violent and intense an armored battle could be. It also showed just how effective Soviet weapons could be. We tend to treat them with scorn now, but they were very effective in the Sinai, and fit in very well with the Soviet view of how to fight. Partly as a result of the 73 war, and a very comprehensive study of history, the Army developed the doctrine of Active Defense, which would later evolve into the AirLand Battle Doctrine. AirLand Battle was the governing view of “how to fight” from roughly 1982 to the end of the Cold War. It’s effectiveness can be seen in Desert Storm. The equipment that the Army bought in the 1970s and 1980s was designed with this doctrine in mind as well as the constraints of budget and engineering.
Doctrine drove the development of equipment. The Army looked at how it wanted to fight, then decided what it needed to fight that way. Knowing that there was a very limited pool of money, the were ruthless in aiming for what the NEEDED versus what they WANTED. This eventually boiled down to what became known as “The Big Five”: The M-1 Abrams tank, the M-2/M-3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, The UH-60 Blackhawk transport helicopter, the Patriot air defense missile system, and of course, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
The big problem facing US commanders on the ground in Western Europe was being outnumbered. A US division could expect to face up to nine Soviet divisions. The rule of thumb is that the attacker should bring three times the troops as the defender. The problem for the Soviets was that there wasn’t enough space to get all nine divisions into the fight at the same time. There just weren’t enough roads to move the divisions and supply them. Their answer was the “echelon attack”. The first echelon of three divisions would attack. If they broke through, fine. If not, they would pull back slightly while keeping pressure on the US forces. The second echelon would then pass through and make its attack. If that didn’t work, the third echelon would then take its turn. During each attack, they could expect to wear down the US division to the point that it collapsed. The question for the US was how to counter this. The answer was-timing. If the US could delay the follow up attacks by the second and third echelons, the US division would be in a position recover from the first attack, and even counter-attack to upset the Soviet efforts. The question became “how do we delay and disrupt the follow on echelons?” Artillery and rockets didn’t have enough range to reach that far behind the front. The Air Force would do its part by concentrating on targets like bridges, supply and fuel depots, and command posts. That left a middle ground from roughly 25-100 miles behind the front lines that the Army needed to be able to attack.
The solution was the attack helicopter and deep strike. Attack helicopters had been around almost as long as helicopters themselves. Previously, however, they had always been used in close support of the ground forces, like flying artillery, and tied to the units they were supporting. Anyone who has seen Apocolypse Now remembers the choppers coming in over the beach and laying waste to the bad guys. The new concept was for the helicopter to act more like Cavalry, raiding deep behind enemy lines, popping up where least expected. Think JEB Stuart in the Civil War. Rather than one or two helicopters providing support to an infantry battalion, an entire battalion of helicopters (18 birds) would slip past the first echelon and attack the second and third before they could even get to the fight. They would sow confusion, concentrate on taking out commanders and headquarters, force the Soviets to react to us, rather than having us react to them. By carefully choosing when and where they attacked, they could influence not only when, but where the follow on echelons attacked. For instance, if the Soviets planned to attack by crossing a river, the helicopters could concentrate on attacking bridging vehicles, forcing the Soviets to choose another path.
The Army’s first attempt at a purpose built attack helicopter was the AH-56 Cheyenne. It was not a success. It was primarily designed to serve as an escort for transport helicopters, but the ability to fly fast for long distances also helped inspire the deep strike concept. After the failure of the Cheyenne, development of the Apache began in earnest. What was wanted was a long range helicopter that could survive considerable small arms fire, and packed a large punch, able to defeat any known enemy armor. The helicopter needed to be able to operate day or night, or in bad weather. This lead to the development of the Apache’s TADS/PNVS (Target Aquisition and Designation System/Pilots Night Vision System). This used infrared sensors to allow the gunner to spot enemy vehicles and “paint” them with a laser designator. The pilots night vision system used was mounted above the TADS and moved separatley. This allowed both crewmembers to use night vision, even while looking in differnt directions. One of the “good ideas” incorporated was to allow the 30mm cannon to point where the pilot was looking. While the gunner was using the TADS to fire Hellfire missiles at enemy tanks, the pilot could engage any threats that got in close.
The Hellfire missile was developed in concert with the Apache. It has a range of about 5 miles so the Apache is outside the range of most anti-aircraft missiles and guns it would encounter. It’s warhead was large enough to defeat any known armor and since it was laser designated, it could be guided by the helicopter firing it, another helicopter, or a scout on the ground. The 30mm chain gun gave the Apache to engage soft targets like trucks without spending an expensive Hellfire missile. It also gave it good self-defense against troops and anti-aircraft guns. In addition, 2.75″ rockets could be used to attack soft targets and troops.
The best known use of the Apache performing a deep strike was on the opening night of Desert Storm. A force of eight Apaches, supported by four Air Force MH-53Js, attacked two Iraqi radar stations on the border to open up a corridor for Allied strike planes to slip through unobserved. Less well known were several deep strike missions performed by the Apaches of the VII Corps to attack Republican Guard brigades and “fix” them in place to be destroyed later by ground forces. They were so successful, by the time they were done, there was little left of the units to be destroyed.
Ironically, the Army has abondoned the deep strike mission for the Apaches. This is partly because there is little chance of US forces being so greatly outnumbered. Another major factor was the deep strike mission against the Medina Division on March 24, 2003. Thirty-three Apaches attacked the Medina Division near Karbala. Having learned their lesson in Operation Desert Storm, the Medina Division laid a clever “flak trap” that shot down one Apache, and damaged almost all the others. All the damaged Apaches were able to make it back home, but several were damaged beyond repair. The high cost of the mission wasn’t worth the results.
If you made it this far, many thanks. Here’s the payoff-
A personal favorite:
And one more: