Marine Corps Gunships

I’ve bashed on the Marines for buying the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, but the older Cobras, and especially, the older UH-1Ns really are overdue for replacement. Still, they’re giving yeoman service in Afghanistan supporting the Marine on the ground.


Thanks to Viral Footage

5 thoughts on “Marine Corps Gunships”

  1. Just curious why you’re down on the UH-1Y and AH-1Z? I will readily concede that the Huey isn’t terribly useful, other than in a C2 role, but the Cobra is a great piece of gear. The Cobra costs a lot less to operate than the Apache and it spends a much higher percentage of its time in the air (as opposed to on the ground for maintenance) than the Apache. I would assume that the Marine Corps opted for the new Hueys and Cobras because of the commonality of maintenance parts (something like 84%), it probably would’ve cost too much to come up with something from scratch to replace the Cobra and/or convert a “naval” version of the Apache, and because the Marine Corps didn’t need the Huey to perform any significant assault support role (the Osprey is coming on line to replace the CH-46 for that). Thoughts?

  2. My impressions/opinions from working with USMC and army aviation in Iraq, and talking to various Marine CH-46 pilots.
    -We got 1.5 hours of station time, max with Cobras, while we got in excess of 4 from Apaches flying farther away.
    -Apaches are orders of magnitude easier to control than Cobras based on their willingness to talk to the leaders on the ground and not just the ANGLICO/SALT/FCT guy that the Marines may or may not have with them. Made a believer out of the Marine infantrymen.
    -Incomparable armament: 30mm v 20mm?
    -Unit specific, but Apaches were much more aggessive and came down much lower to provide accurate fires and show-of-force
    -The reason that the Marines went with CH46 instead of Blackhawk was not because of the Osprey that was still decades away, but because the -60 is an army platform. I met multiple pilots that would gladly have turned in their Phrogs for Blackhawks, and were leery of Ospreys.
    -UH-1N was an underpowered joke, and hampered by self imposed restrictions. Had one land, pick up its max allowable cargo load of Army infantrymen (4), and jump them across an IED belt to SSE a building, and the pilot got chewed out for not doing it as a planned operation (and he was the squadron commander…).
    -But, bottom line, Cobras look WAY cooler than Blackhawks, and have a better name, to boot.

  3. Esli,
    No disagreement that the Apache packs more punch than the Cobra, but I would be willing to bet that the level of control you may or may not have had over Cobras was likely dictated at a much higher level than the individual pilots or even squadrons. That sounds like an ACE-level decision as to who “owns” the assets. It also sounds like the decision as to how low they were willing to come down to provide fires and show-of-force was also dictated from higher; I know and have worked with plenty of rotary-wing (and fixed-wing) guys and I’ve never met one who wasn’t willing to do anything and everything he could to protect the Marines in the fight. I would also agree that the decision not to go with a 60-based platform as a replacement for the CH-46 was based at least in part on a “we don’t want what the army has” mentality. I don’t know of any Phrog guys who weren’t at least a bit leery of the Osprey as well. Assuming that the Ospreys don’t start falling out of the sky again and they get the maintenance/logistics issues worked out with them, given their speed and overall performance, I don’t think anyone will miss not having Blackhawks as the medium-lift/assault support platform. I couldn’t agree with you more that the Huey, at least the older version, was pretty much useless. As for the “Y,” I guess time will tell. I still don’t understand why the Marine Corps really even chose to keep it b/c it has such a limited value; even with its upgrades, it still seems like it will simply be a C2 bird, not really an assault support asset of any significance. At the end of the day, you are correct regarding the Cobras – they look really cool and that’s the most important thing.

  4. Brian, Concur, the limitations were largely IIMEF (FWD) ACE-imposed, except station time… But the control of attack AVN by aviators is Corps doctrine. My SALT guy told me that in extremis, the Cobras would talk to a ground guy, but we never made it that far. As a ground guy, grabbing the handset and talking to the bird myself is always the best answer…. And I know that the Marine rifle BN guys were gettting on board with that, too, when Apaches supported them.

Comments are closed.