TRADOC cuts Apaches’ role in deep attack (subscribers only)
In the April 17 Army Times:
Because battlefield experience in Iraq has shown the AH-64 Apache is highly vulnerable to small-arms fire, it no longer will play a prominent role in the service’s deep-attack mission, said the Army’s head of doctrine.
Gen. William Wallace, who commanded ground forces in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now heads the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said he would shake up the way the Army conducts deep-attack operations.
“Less integration of Apache helicopters,” more Air Force ground-attack aircraft and “more use of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, perhaps even with unitary rounds that are long-range precision,” Wallace told reporters at the Association of the United States Army’s winter symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in February.
Mentioned specifically is the April 2003 deep attack by the 101st Division that was shot up pretty good by ground fire but never hit any of its Republican Guard targets.
MO noted that the Marines were officially reviewing their own deep strike helicopter tactics already in August of that year.
Also in the Army Times article:
Army aviators are changing their tactics and training to conduct running fire missions with guns and rockets to minimize their exposure to ground fire, Brig. Gen. Edward Sinclair, commander of the Army’s Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., said in a recent interview.
A report by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, detailing lessons learned during the invasion and occupation of Iraq, said Army attack aviation was better suited to providing close-air support to friendly ground forces than in the deep-attack role.
The same report said the Army’s OH-58 Kiowas performed better than the Apaches in urban areas because their pilots were trained to fly close to the ground at high speed and use buildings and trees as cover.
Regarding the Kiowas “better” performance, that can be addressed by additional training of Apache crews to fly similarly. As for the CAS role, I doubt we’re going to see the reliance on helicopters go away any time soon, even if only because the Army controls them and won’t have to rely on Air Force jets (often unsuited to CAS in the first place, excepting the A-10) for help. Jointness is improving every day, but there’s nothing like knowing you can bring your own heat in a pinch.
Hinted at but left largely unsaid, the same Air Force planes not particularly well-suited for CAS are now much more capable of performing the deep attack mission that the Apache has been pulled from due to more advanced precision weaponry and JSTARS.
Left unsaid and totally ignored is the possible role for light attack aircraft along the lines of the OV-1 Mohwak, the A-37 Dragonfly, or the Super Tucano COIN aircraft. Probably cheaper than attack helicopters, able to support ground units nearly as well, and suffering from few of the whirlybirds’ particular vulnerabilities, the Army should be looking into something along these lines.
Oh. They can’t. The Air Force gets all the fixed-wing aircraft. And they only fly bazillion-dollar fighter jets.