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Subject: Apaches pass trial by fire
AdamB    3/6/2007 1:17:23 PM
Apaches pass trial by fire By Craig Hoyle British Army praises combat performance of its new attack helicopter during Afghanistan campaign Nine months into its first operational deployment using the Westland/Boeing Apache AH1 attack helicopter, the British Army has issued a glowing report into the type's performance in the southern Afghan provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. Deployed to the region in April 2006, the aircraft had by late last year amassed almost 2,200 flying hours and conducted numerous strikes against Taliban guerrillas as part of the army's ongoing commitment to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Eight Apaches and four Westland Lynx AH7 utility helicopters are deployed to Kandahar airfield and forward at the UK's Camp Bastion site in Helmand province as part of its Joint Helicopter Force Afghanistan, which also comprises eight Royal Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook HC2 transports. UK Apaches have attacked Taliban militants within 10m of friendly forces The army commitment to the UK's Operation Herrick is being met by the Army Air Corps' (AAC) 9 Regt, based at Disforth in Yorkshire, with aircraft and personnel provided by its 656 and 664 squadrons. A typical Apache mission involves deploying two aircraft from Camp Bastion - where four of the aircraft are typically available - to provide support for British and coalition ground forces or the Afghan national police targeted by Taliban militants. Once located and positively identified, these are usually engaged with 10-round bursts from the aircraft's 30mm cannon. AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles have also been used. Armaments expended by the UK's Apaches in Afghanistan by December included 28 semi-active laser and radar-guided Hellfires, 65 CRV-7 unguided rockets tipped with high-explosive fragmentation charges or anti-personnel flechettes, and 9,100 cannon rounds. WO2 Steve Jones from 664 Sqn says pilots fly an average of one sortie a day, but this can surge to three or four missions if required. The aircraft also regularly support multinational brigade-sized operations such as resupply and support missions. "It has made a big difference flying Apache out there so far," he says. The Apache's extended mission endurance of up to 2h 45min in Afghanistan is achieved through the use of an internal auxiliary fuel tank. This requires the AH1 to carry a reduced load of ammunition for its cannon: 600 high-explosive dual-purpose rounds, against a full load of over 1,100. "On battlegroup operations commanders wouldn't proceed without attack helicopters," says Capt Mark Swann from the army's 3rd Parachute Regiment, which received support from AH1s during its deployment to Afghanistan last year. "They are better than the [BAE Systems] Harrier, as they can stay with the guys on the ground," he adds. In some instances, Apaches have been called on to suppress hostile forces with cannon fire as little as 10m (32ft) in advance of friendly troops. "It is testament to the proficiency of the crews and their confidence in the Apache's weapon systems that they were able to provide this level of battle-winning support," the army says. Each aircraft operates with one of its crew members also having trained as a joint terminal attack controller, with this experience in working in close proximity with ground forces greatly reducing the risk of so-called "friendly fire" incidents. While such close quarters activity is at odds with the AAC's previous manoeuvre warfare concept for using the Apache, 9 Regt pilots say their conversion training and a pre-conflict work-up in Oman (Flight International, 7-13 February 2006) have succeeded in meeting operational demands. "People say it has exceeded expectations, but it didn't exceed ours: we trained on it and knew it would do the job," said one 9 Regt pilot during a briefing on the Apache's performance at the Directorate of Army Aviation's Middle Wallop headquarters in Hampshire last month. "We are clearly delivering in Helmand." As well as operating in conjunction with RAF and Royal Navy Harrier GR7As, the Apaches also routinely work with US Air Force Fairchild A-10 ground-attack aircraft and Boeing B-1B bombers, plus US Navy Boeing F/A-18s. "We will work with whoever is there," says one pilot. "It's a team sport." The British Army Apaches in Afghanistan have used Longbow fire-control radar, unlike the US Army, which deploys only AH-64As to the country. Employed to improve situational awareness by locating vehicles and friendly forces on the ground and Chinooks in the air, the radar has provided great utility. "I would feel naked flying without it," says one British pilot. The UK aircraft have been unaffected by Afghanistan's fine dust, while their Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines have also provided hot and high performance superior to the US Army's Apaches in air temperatures up to 49°C (120°F) and at altitudes up to 10,000ft (3,000m). None of
 
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AdamB       3/6/2007 1:54:38 PM

So, are the British Army's Westland/Boeing Apache attack helicopters any good?

British Army Apache helicopters are superior to their American counterparts

They have been on the receiving end of terrible press from the general media for years due to contractual shortcomings which pushed up programme costs and delayed the availability of a suitable training package, but the British Army’s Westland/Boeing Apache AH1 attack helicopters are now receiving rave reviews after nine months of activity in southern Afghanistan.

Apache landing - CH.jpghttp://www.bizbuzzmedia.com/Admin/ImageGallery/BizBuzzMedia/Craig%20Hoyle/Apache%20landing%20-%20CH.jpg" width=450 border=0>

The Army Air Corps’s (AAC) 9 Regt currently maintains a force of eight Apaches and four Westland Lynx AH7 utility helicopters in the country, and has provided close quarters support to the army’s 3rd Parachute Regiment and now the Royal Marines during operations against Taliban guerrillas. In some cases, its formidable 30mm cannon has been brought to bear on militants just 10m (32ft) in front of British troops, who clearly already have full trust in the abilities of the aircraft and the crews who fly them. You can read more about the Apache’s recent performance in Flight International’s News Focus article this week.

One officer from the 3rd Parachute Regiment who has witnessed the Apache’s lethality from such close proximity says he felt more comfortable having the aircraft overhead during contact with the enemy than a fixed-wing asset such as the Royal Air Force/Royal Navy-operated BAE Systems Harrier GR7A. Despite what other army figures might famously write in their e-mails home, this isn’t because the RAF is “utterly, utterly useless”, but is because the Apache can remain on station looking over the shoulder of ground troops, providing a very evident presence to deter or take the fight to enemy combatants. And judging by some of the combat videos shown by the army during a recent media day at the AAC’s Middle Wallop headquarters in Hampshire, even a 10-round burst from that cannon is more than enough to spoil your day.

Apache cannon - CH.jpghttp://www.bizbuzzmedia.com/Admin/ImageGallery/BizBuzzMedia/Craig%20Hoyle/Apache%20cannon%20-%20CH.jpg" width=450 border=0>

I got the impression from 9 Regt pilots that they have been greatly frustrated by the lack of coverage that their exploits in Afghanistan have received from the mainstream press during the first nine months of UK Apache operations in the country. Maybe this is just because Iraq gets all the attention these days, but I suspect that rather like with the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon, many journalists aren’t interested in writing good news stories when something goes right after so many years of knocking.

Many people expected the Apache to fail on its debut tour of duty, due to the dusty conditions, ambient temperatures of up to 49°C (120°F) and the combined need to operate at altitudes approaching 10,000ft (3,050m). Many criticised the UK’s decision to buy 67 of the aircraft, equip them all with mast-mounted Longbow fire-control radars and integrate Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines.

But despite the failings of the Ministry of Defence’s original contract framework for the Apache, the army’s experience in Afghanistan shows that planners for the large part got its configuration right. There can be little question that Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow is the best attack helicopter out there, and in the AH1 variant the UK has fielded some unique capabilities which make its aircraft even better in the Afghan arena than anything the US Army can bring to the fight.

Apache pair - CH.jpghttp://www.bizbuzzmedia.com/Admin/ImageGallery/BizBuzzMedia/Craig%20Hoyle/Apache%20pair%20-%20CH.jpg" width=420 border=0>

Fair enough, the MoD’s £3.1 billion ($6 billion) procurement and introduction of the Apache has at times fallen well short of the mark, but in the AH1 it now has a capability that will provide huge support to UK and coalition troops for many years to come. Perhaps it’s time at last for the type – and the AAC – to receive a bit of hard-earned praise?
 
THE BRITISH ARMY'S APACHE HELICOPTER

http://www.army.mod.uk/img/aac/photo26.jpg" border=0>

http://www.army.mod.uk/img/aac/photo24.jpg" border=0>

http://www.army.mod.uk/img/aac/photo29.jpg" border=0>
An example of the awesome firepower each helicopter carries

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sofa       3/6/2007 2:02:16 PM
After years of delays, it's good UK got their Apache variant into the field.
Need more successes.
 
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