17 thoughts on “Boeing Vertol ACH-47 Chinook Gunship "Guns A Go-Go"”

  1. Pretty cool concept. I am somewhat skeptical of their comment that they would provide a 360 degree field of fire over the target area, though. While I, as a ground guy, would love to have that asset overhead, I can’t say that hovering overhead and providing 360 degrees of fire is a viable technique…
    I’m curious as to why a Chinook would be limited to 4000 rounds of .50 cal (I think that 4k rounds would be about 1400 lbs). Guess all of that armor plate is putting a major load on it, though on the face of it, you wouldn’t think so. I’d be curious to see a comparison of the cargo lift capabilities of the CH-47A, versus the load-out weight of the ACH variant. Also, wondering what current CH-47 variants could achieve.

    1. I’m too lazy to look, but IIRC, the early A models had a loadout of about 8k, whereas you can get somewhere around 30k out of an F model.

  2. Esli,

    Please excuse a stupid question from a dumb old Vet. Is 360° firing capability really all that important? Are we not, “Minoring on majors and majoring on minors?” If you are on the ground, and that “Chinook CH-47” is overhead and your adversary is in his “Window of Opportunity”, what is wrong with that picture? I hope you say, “Nothing”. I believe part of our problem in acquisition is that we are trying to buy equipment that does everything. As we have seen in the past, this never works. If we are going to fight wars, then we need to buy the technology of warfare. We need to stop playing games and do it right.

    1. It’s nice to have coverage over all the angles. Don’t forget, the Guns-a-go-go were primarily designed as escorts for troop lift helicopters, intended to suppress enemy fire on a landing zone. They would accompany the troop lift all the way to the LZ, and the ability to lay down suppressive fires to the flanks would have been important.

      Today, we tend not to go for a hot LZ so much. Also, the greater standoff range of attack helicopters means they won’t usually go right down to the LZ. With their sensors and weapons, they are better suited to taking a high perch and overwatching.

  3. Gents, despite a couple thousand pounds of armor, a helicopter is not impervious to ground fire. Witness the glass chin bubbles in front of the crew. I believe that on the order of 8000 helicopters were shot down during the Vietnam War. (Will research this again, tonight, if I remember.) Because of that, a stationary ACH47 seemingly hovering over the center of the battlefield, firing in 360 degrees is a bad idea in my opinion. Helicopter survivability has always stemmed from not exposing yourself to ground fires, and particularly not conceivably from all directions. Ask Custer about the utility of being able to fire on your enemies in all directions…
    I buy the idea of the aircraft being able to provide fires in all directions, if that is to suppress an emergent threat from any quarter. If the mode of employment calls for the crew to position itself such that all guns are firing simultaneously, this is, in my opinion, the height of stupidity.

    1. I do concur that it is a good capability if it is accompanying the insertion/extraction, and is only employed relatively briefly in that role, somewhat akin to door-gunners providing suppression on short final. When you talk AH, I think in more general terms of on-call, mobile and responsive close support to troops in contact, in which case I still stand by my above comments.

  4. Esli, Gentlemen, if I might be permitted to use the term, this is my understanding. The Chinook CH–47 series, as you say the primary role is insertion/extraction and in some cases is a “heavy lift capability”, about its use in any other role, such as a gunship. I don’t see them hovering and being seen as a stationary shooting target. You make a good point about having weapons, but for the primary use of protection on a short-term basis during insertion/extraction. We have other systems better suited for Air–Ground support.

    1. Grumpy, at the time (early in the Vietnam war) the helicopter gunship wasn’t fully developed. It was still somewhat embryonic. Tactics were still evolving. And one of the problems was that lighter UH-1 series helicopters couldn’t carry a large ordnance load, and were actually slower and less maneuverable than the birds they were escorting. The ACH-47 program was an attempt to bypass that problem, but using the most powerful (and fastest) chopper around. It was not an overwhelming success, partly because the thing cost an enormous amount of money. You could buy two or three Hueys for the cost of one Chinook.
      The Chinooks in the video were used as escorts, and did NOT provide troop lift.

  5. The early gun ships were UH-1Cs that were heavily armed and designated UH1Ms. A man who attends church with me was a Warrant Officer pilot that served in Vietnam and has regaled us with a few stories. His favorite of the UH-1M was watching a fully loaded Mike model launch. The two guys in back had to get out, run alongside until the ship got enough speed to launch then jump in. It lead to a few funny moments for those watching, but not for the victims.

    The Cobra was welcomed for that reason, among others. Just pilots, less airframe and the more powerful of the engines used in the UH-1 series allowed it to excell where the previous attempts were barely adequate. The Chinook was too expensive to use it as a gun ship for long. The army was desperate to get adequate CAS as the AF was more interested in long range bombing and commanders had to fight and negotiate with the AF for the CAS they needed.

  6. According to “Vietnam, the Helicopter War”, four ACH47s were built. One was lost to a ground accident, one essentially shot itself down when a 20mm cannon’s mounting pin failed and the gun rotated up, firing through the forward rotor, one was downed by enemy fire and then destroyed on the ground, and the 4th one was pulled from service and sent to CONUS. By that time, 1968, Cobras were on hand. The type was popular, and effective, and the reason more were not converted was because they didn’t want to lose the heavy lift capability to become gunships.
    I find that my memory is flawed with regards to helicopter losses during the war; looking in the book I thought the number came from, I found that total helicopter losses from US forces spanning 1962 to 1973 totaled 4870 aircraft between hostile and operational losses, and resulted in 2181 men KIA or MIA.

    1. According to the Vietnam Air War Almanac published by Air Force Magazine, the total number of Army helicopter losses were, 5086.

      I understand why more CH-47s weren’t modified for gunship operations, but there’s something to be said about have a few surprise packages in a formation, that way the enemy could never be sure when or where they would pop up. It was an example of imaginative thinking that to be honest we could use a little more of today.

      About “Chickenhawk”, I remember feeling cheated when at the end of the book the author revealed that he was in prison and proceeded to blame at least some of his legal problems on “the war”. I also remember when I showed up to flight school at Ft Rucker, the lady at the museum gift shop threw in her two cents and told a bunch of us WOCs that her husband flew with the author of “Chickenhawk” in Nam and that he was a “lying SOB”.

  7. Actually, Brad, I believe that I got rid of “Chickenhawk” for the same reason that Outlaw says he didn’t like it: the ending really aggravated me.
    I am curious what the disconnect between sources on the loss of helicopters. Maybe one counts only in SVN and the other counts Laos, Cambodia, etc? 1962-73 is a pretty comprehensive date span, especially with the smaller numbers I have.

    1. To be honest, I don’t think I’d read Chickenhawk since High School. I just remember being fascinated by the flying stuff. But there were several books we read that I went back to and found appallingly bad, such as The Five Fingers.

  8. Don’t go and tarnish “The Five Fingers” for me. I think that was one of the first VN war books I ever read.
    My favorite army aviation books from that era are Brennan’s War, Headhunters, and Hunter-Killer Squadron, all by Matthew Brennan. The first is his personal narrative, and the second and third are collections of stories from other Soldiers. They chronicle the exploits of members of 1-9 CAV (Yes, THAT 1-9 CAV from Apocalypse Now) from deployment until the end. Incredible stories.
    Oh, and looking on my shelf, I noticed that these three were arranged right next to…. Chickenhawk.

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