Attack Aviation

I’m really lazy. That is, if I go to all the trouble of writing something on Facebook that’s even remotely related to the topics I cover here, I tend to feel like I’m cheating on you, dear reader. So I’ll copy pasta another conversation.

TMI asked regarding PGMs and CAS:

my question is, what is the role of the attack helicopter if the evolution you describe continues?
I’m willing to buy that the CAS role will narrow considerably, but it’s difficult for me to see PGMs completely eliminating the need for aerial gunnery at visual range

My reply:

There’s a fundamental difference between the Army and the Marines in employment. The Marines tend to treat attack helicopters as just another part of CAS.
The Army, however, has a bit of schizophrenia. There’s long been two schools of thought, going back to the 60s.

Attack aviation is seen either as maneuver, or as fires. Early AH-1 units were in both attack helicopters with a Cavalry heritage, or in Ariel Rocket Artillery units. You can see the dichotomy there, I think.

The maneuver, or Cavalry school, sees the Atk Helo as fighting for information, screening, and delivering deep raids. The fires, or ARA school, sees the Atk Helo as just another source of fire support for the troops on the ground.
There’s a little overlap between the two school. In the permissive environment of the GWOT, we’ve seen them used both ways.

First, they did a LOT of convoy and maneuver unit cover and overwatch. But they’ve also been treated like call fires. Ground unit wants to make a room in a building go away? Call Mr. Apache.

Again, how that will work going forward depends on the threat we face.
Attack helicopters offer fantastic firepower, and great depth on the battlefield, but they are fragile, and lack staying power. In any but the most benign threat environment, their use must be VERY carefully integrated with other fires, and fixed wing air for the suppression of air defenses

3 thoughts on “Attack Aviation”

  1. Well, you still have to give some credit to the old “Pink Team”. where the LOACH would show-up to draw fire and the Cobras would follow-up to blow the shit out of it.
    That was, after all, where the “Attack Helicopter” came from.
    Oh, I forgot, you were very young then…

    1. That would be the Cavalry approach. Fighting for information. I may be too young to remember those days, but I’m old enough to read about them.

      Plus, Esli and I had that scene from Apocalypse Now pretty much memorized.

  2. Scene memorized.

    On a different note, I am a believer that attack aviation is a maneuver asset but sometimes when they checked on to my command net, I would push them to my fire support officer on the battalion fires net simply because adding another unit to my already-crowded net didn’t help matters. I could tell my FSO what I wanted the AH to achieve, and he would control them. The technical answer usually boils down to preference in how to control, while employment looks similar. It also depends on whether they are there specifically to attack a specific target in time/space or are they just there in general supporter of you for a dedicated block of time.

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