Saturday, May 31, 2014

Countering a Flak Trap

Deep strike is back on! This is interesting for the development of the Army "air force":

The latest version of the U.S. Army attack helicopter, the AH-64E, is equipped to share video being taken by army MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs. An AH-64E is also equipped for the pilot to briefly take control of a nearby MQ-1Cs for a short while. This is usually to quickly give the UAV a specific route to patrol and for how long. The new version of the smaller Shadow 200 UAV is getting the same capability for AH-64E control. Most of the time one or more MQ-1Cs are “flown” by their operators, who are assisted by a sensor operator. Both of these are usually army NCOs operating nearby on the ground. The AH-64E pilot and weapons officer can also constantly observe the video the UAVs are taking and ask the NCO operator to look for specific items or move to a new area. The army has been testing this capability recently and is pleased with the results. AH-64E pilots take quickly to controlling or just cooperating with UAVs. An AH-64E with one or two UAVs under its command (or occasional control) makes for a very potent combination.

Directly controlling drones will be a great capability for our attack helicopters.

During the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, a large-scale Apache deep strike mission went awry and got shot up pretty badly by the Iraqis. After working in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, I wondered if the mission was out of the play book.

Later, I read that a number of factors led to the defeat. We were sloppy, as I wrote over 10 years ago (pre-Blogger and even pre-text anchors, see January 30 if you wish):

[The] attack was smaller than first planned and delayed by hours; failed to attack from a better direction; lacked good intel on the target; and squandered an artillery strike mission that occurred hours earlier, when the helicopters were supposed to attack. Instead of suppressing the Iraqis as the helicopters attacked, the artillery mission just warned the Iraqis that we were up to something.

Having the Apaches able to send drones forward of their flight path, we'd be able to see waiting anti-aircraft weapons (and any direct fire weapon able to elevate enough to shoot at low-flying helicopters).

I assume we will take care not to be sloppy with the mission, too.