The Air War In Afghanistan CSC 1985 SUBJECT AREA Aviation WAR SINCE 1945 SEMINAR AND SYMPOSIUM The Air War in Afghanistan Major Keith J. Stalder, USMC 25 January 1985 Marine Corps Command and Staff College Marine Corps Development and Education Command Quantico, Virginia 22314 ABSTRACT Author: STALDER, Keith J., Major, U.S. Marine Corps Title: The Air War in Afghanistan Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Date: 25 March 1985 The purpose of this study is to examine the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and determine the effect that this venture, particularly the air war, will have on Soviet tactics as it relates to the U.S. Marine Corps. The paper starts with a brief background covering the geography, history and people of Afghanistan. The invasion is examined and a general discussion of the course, opposing forces and character of the conflict are provided. An analysis of fixed wing operations is then presented which focuses on air order of battle, surface-to-air threat, infrared countermeasures, employment of attack aircraft, chemical warfare and problems encountered by Soviet air- crewmen. A detailed look at the new Soviet Su-25 FROGFOOT is provided and possibilities for its employment in other theaters is discussed. The greater portion of the study is devoted to a review and analysis of the helicopter air war in Afghanistan. This section emphasizes developments in Soviet air support doctrine and technique, order of battle, employment, Afghan Air Force participation, and concludes with a detailed appraisal of the capabilities and limitations of the Soviet Mi-24 HIND attack helicopter. The final part of this study is an evaluation of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and significant areas which warrant notice by Western military planners. A brief review of Soviet helicopter research and development trends is included to support specific recommendations to counter Soviet helicopters. The analysis terminates with conclu- sions about the impact on conventional Soviet doctrine which the study suggests. The principle sources used are technical military periodicals, Defense Intelligence Agency doctrinal manuals and analyses of Soviet military writings. FOREWORD Because this paper is an unclassified document, the author thinks it appropriate to draw the reader's attention to the quantity and quality of reference sources which were available for analysis. A recent article in Time magazine acknowledged that Accurate information on the situation in Afghanistan remains scarce. Foreign correspon- dents were forced to leave the country in early 1980, and since then very few visas have been issued to Western journalists. As a result, the world must rely largely on accounts by American and West European diplomats in Kabul. The diplomats admit that most of what they pass along is unconfirmed, while reports from the mujahidin are often exaggerated.1 Nevertheless, the quantity of unclassified information available for analysis is quite extensive. The following reference sources are a sampling of those consulted during the research for this work: o Current books on the subject. o Applicable journalistic reports on the subject, to include assessments by newsmen who have actually traveled inside Afghanistan with mujahidin forces during the occupation period. o Analyses of published Soviet military and press writing on the subject. In the last category, there are three groups of articles which can be affiliated with Soviet involvement in Afghanistan: 1. Those that openly admit a strong Soviet military presence and emphasize a peaceful, noble fulfillment of the "international duty" (internatsyonalnly dolg). Articles and pictures from this type of article are always careful to avoid any references to combat activities. 2. Articles which refer to some mysterious troop exercises (ucheniya) which are taking place in some undisclosed areas. The scenarios of these "ucheniya" closely resemble the situations Soviet troops are facing in Afghanistan. 3. Articles regarding troops in "exercises" which supposedly are taking place in military districts bordering Afghanistan. Central Asia, Turkestan and the Transcaucasus military district have terrain closely resembling Afghanistan. The articles of the second and third groups may emphasize actual combat operations taking place in Afghanistan under the cover name of "troop exercises." They may also reflect actual troop exercises designed to reflect conditions and scenarios typical of combat operations in Afghanistan. i.e., combat in high mountains; pursuing small groups of the enemy; helicopter reconnaissance; independent helicopter operations against targets in mountainous terrain, and motorized rifle-helicopter joint combat operations. The quality of the unclassified information available for scholarly analysis, however, varies. To ensure a greater degree of accuracy and reliability, every possible attempt has been made to find general agreement by at least two sources before citing a fact within this composition. CHAPTER ONE The interests of security on the frontier . . . compel the more civilized state to exercise a certain ascendancy over neighbors whose turbulence and nomadic instincts render them difficult to live with. . . . The greatest difficulty is in knowing where to stop. -- The Czarist foreign minister, Prince Gorchakov, 1864 The revolutionary process in Afghanistan is irreversible. -- Leonid Brezhnev, 1980 Do not accept the orders of the infidels; wage Jihad against them. -- The Koran Scipio unleashed the Roman Legions who razed the city to the ground, sold the surviving inhabitants into slavery, and sowed the ground with salt. -- Polybius, 146 B.C. Background Afghanistan is located in the heart of south central Asia and is completely landlocked, the nearest coast lying about 300 miles to the south. It is bordered on the east and south by Pakistan (1125 mi), the west by Iran (510 mi), the north by the Soviet Union (1050 mi) and a small 50 mile border in the northeast with the Peoples Republic of China. The geography can best be described in two words - mountains and desert. These natural barriers have been historically instrumental in the country's role as a neutral buffer state. The most significant geographic feature of Afghanistan is a mountain range, the Hindu Kush, rising above 21,000 ft. It is a natural barrier between the fertile northern plains and the southern dry areas. North of the Hindu Kush is a large plain with an average elevation of 2,000 ft. South of the mountains is an area of higher plateaus, sandy deserts and semi-deserts. The nation's average altitude is 3,000 ft. Only one river, the Kabul River, drains into a major tributary (Indus River) that ultimately empties onto the Arabian Sea. Almost all other rivers of the country ori- ginate in the central highlands and empty into inland lakes or dry up in the deserts. None are navigable. In general, Afghanistan has extremely cold winters and exceedingly hot summers, typical of a semi-arid steppe climate. There are variations, however, the Uindu Kush being the factor. In the north, sub-arctic climates of cold, dry winters prevail which are inf luenced by the Atlantic low depression. On the border of Pakistan and the southwest, the summer (July - September) maritime tropical air masses bring in humidity and rain. The annual mean precipitation increases from west to east. In the arid west, approximately 3 inches fall each year while in the mountains of the northeast, there is an average of 15 inches annually. Vegetation is sparse in the southern area and only when the monsoons bring in rain, do patches of grass grow. Plant life becomes more dense towards the north and includes many trees. The fir line is about 10,000 ft. and below that, cedar, oak, walnut and ash forests are abundant. The country is about the size of Texas and small fertile valleys provide about twelve percent arable land used primarily for subsistence agriculture. There are few paved roads and no railroads at all.1 Apart from half a dozen cities and provincial capitals, it is a land of tiny scattered villages. The social pattern is tribal. Every man regards himself a warrior, and a rifle or any firearm, no matter how ancient, is a prized posses- sion and symbol of manhood. Infant mortality is fifty percent before age five and per capita income is estimated to be one hundred fifty dollars a year. Afghanistan has a political character which over the span of centuries, remains obstinate, defiant, inward looking and hostile to all foreigners. The nation of Afghanistan was the object of the "Great Game" of nineteenth century Geopolitics - the compelling saga of competitive interaction pitting British power expansion northward from the Indian subcontinent and Russian power expansion southward through Central Asia. A land of primitive people undisposed to capture by either empire, Afghan territory became a buffer. Twice, fearful that Russia might be gaining advantage there, British forces preemptively invaded Afghanistan. Both expeditions. encountered fierce hostility from Afghan tribes and both forays ended in retreat. As to the dangers awaiting intruders on this rugged landscape, Kipling offered his countrymen sobering advice: When you're wounded an' left on Afghanistan's plains, An' the women come out to cut up your remains, Just roll to your rifle an' blow out your brains, An' go to your Gawd like a soldier. In drawing the borders of Afghanistin, the competing. imperialist powers showed little concern for ethnic conse- quences. Thus, much of Afghanistan's major tribe--the Pushtuns (or Pathans)--extends eastward into what is now Pakistan, as do the Baluch and Brahui peoples. Meanwhile, to the north, the Soviet-Afghan border cuts across the lands of the Tajiks (the second largest Afghan tribe), Uzbeks, and Turkmen. Similarly, Afghanistan's western border with Iran divides not only Baluch, Brahui, and Turkmen, but also Farsiwan, Aimaq, and Ziailbash. Only the Hazara tribe in the country's central mountains is contained within Afghanistan. Among Afghanistan's roughly 15 million people (no serious census has ever occurred), some 20 languages are spoken, but most Afghans speak one of two tongues: the Pushtun language, called Pashto; and the special form of Persian spoken by the Tajiks, called Dari. Throughout Afghanistan, the religion is Islam (80 percent Sunni, 20 percent Shiite); and with little competition from other influences, Islamic values, as interpreted by local mullahs, have comprised the country's main cultural influence for centuries. Beset by widespread disease and malnutrition, Afghans alleviated their poverty by sharing based on strong ties of family and tribal affiliation. This village orientation, accentuated by pervasive illiteracy, has made the country resistant to centralized control, even by those proffering constructive reform. In Afghanistan, nationalism is essentially an expression of tribalism.2 The Invasion In April 1978, the Soviets established a Marxist government and initiated a campaign through their puppet regime to indoctrinate the Afghan population in Communist ideology.3 The campaign included a redistribution of lands, forcing many households to move hundreds of miles from where families had lived for generations. People were forced to move to regions of the country dominated by strange tribes speaking alien languages.4 The once meager production of wheat dropped dramatically.5 Government efforts to reduce illiteracy, curb the powers of feudal lords and eliminate the 'bride price' violated centuries of tradition.6 Despite the religious significance of the green flag of Islam, the Amin government hoisted a red flag which became a symbol of tyranny. Illconceived attempts to reform the traditional society, almost overnight, caused resentment and shock that led directly to insurgency. The Amin government was unable to repress this growing rebellion which began to be labeled a holy war or jihad. By December 1979, the rebels, or mujahidin controlled 21 of 28 provinces.7 Christmas Eve 1979 was quiet everwhere in the world community in 1979 except in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. There, as feared by many and predicted by none, the air suddenly filled with Soviet aircraft. A recalcitrant population and a government not fully committed to Marxist ideology had again precipitated the wrath of Soviet leaders. In a swift five-hour operation, elements of the Soviet elite 105th Airborne secured Kabul airport, paving the way for a massive, single lift by some 280 individual I1-76, An-22 and An-12 aircraft filled with Soviet assault troops and equipment. This lift, and another 100 sorties, brought in the remainder of the 105th plus the 103rd and 104th Airborne from the general reserve in the Moscow area. Three days later, on the evening of 27 December, the operation gained momentum when the 105th moved to the inner city in BMD armored assault vehicles. Their objective was to seize the key points, isolate the government and neutra- lize Afghan army resistance. In an example of classic Soviet planning, this last task had been simplified by a ruse which the local KGB (Committee of State Security) and Soviet advisers had perpetrated on the Afghan defenders. The ruse was simple-- recall all Afghan Army tanks and tracked vehicles for modifications during the days shortly before the invasion. This effectively removed all armored resistance by the Afghan Army because most of the Afghan armor was in mainte- nance shops or motor pools with engines inoperable as the Russians arrived.8 When the 1005th moved into Kabul, the first four motorized rifle divisions -- the 357th and 66th at Kushka and the 360th and 201st at Termez -- began to roll across the common border. These were supported by several squad- rons of MiG-21 FISHBEDs and MiG-23 FLOGGERs. Organic equipment accompanying the invasion forces, included air defense weapons and chemical decontamination equipment. This aspect is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the Soviets had unquestioned air superiority and the Afghan insurgents had no chemical capability.9 By mid-January, the 40th Army field headquarters had been established at Bagram Air Force Base, north of Kabul, and was in full control of air operations under the command of Marshal Sergei Sokolov, Soviet first deputy defense minister. Two more motorized rifle divisions, the 16th and 54th, had been inserted, and the country was divided into two major operational areas. These were fully supported by helicopter gunships and tactical air support. The major Afghan Army resistance had been contained, and the cities vere under firm control by mid-April.10 The ease and quickness with which the Soviets invaded the country demonstrates that this was not an impromptu operation. Considerable planning preceded the incursion. some observers have speculated that the movement by air of nearly 10,000 Soviet troops to South Yemen and Ethiopia in late October was actually a rehearsal for the massive Soviet airlift that was an integral part of the invasion.11 It is possible to speculate at length on the reasons for the invasion. Fear of divergence from the Moscow party line and of possible 'contamination' had been key motivating factors in the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, both of which transpired in U.S. presidential election years. When the Shah of Iran was toppled in January 1979 and the Afghan insurgency had heated up, the situation began to rapidly unravel. Iran turned hostile to both superpowers. It appeared as if a broad-based Islamic movement might topple the Afghan government. More significantly, U.S. Fleet deployments had increased and the Soviets believed that the U.S. might soon move to reestablish the position of strength in Iran. The Soviets had been able to live with a pro-western Iran, but losing Afghanistan could create intolerable problems. Afghanistan could possibly become the linchpin in a new NATO-Chinese encirclement of the Soviet Union. In Soviet eyes, the American fixation on Iran was simply a cover for grander purposes. Five Years of War The current order of battle is difficult to assess in an unclassified format but the conflict pits roughly 140,000 Soviet troops in country and an additional 30,000 on the Soviet side of the border, against 85,000 to 100,000 freedom fighters.12 Soviet forces are composed of seven motorized rifle divisions and five air assault brigades (about 2,000 men each), 240 gunships, 400 other helicopters, 30-45 MiG-23s, 75-90 MiG-21s and a variety of transport aircraft.13 Tanks have been estimated at 1,850 and armored personnel carriers at 2,700.14 Tu-16 BADGERs flying from bases in the Soviet Union routinely support ground operations against the mujahidin.15 Rebels come from at least six loosely organized and disunited resistance groups who fight in platoon to regi- mental strength. In the West there is a popular misconcep- tion that the mujahidin are the beneficiaries of an effective covert supply of weaponry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The principle sources of the limited arms the rebels possess are captured Soviet weapons black marketeering, and Afghan Army defectors.16 This meager supply consists of SA-7s, RPGs, 82mm mortars, AK-74s, Enfield rifles, and 12.7mm machine guns.17 The rebels have made use of an inordinately high number of dud 250 kg Soviet bombs, recovered following air raids. These make crude mines and booby traps. 57mm rocket pods recovered from the wreckage of helicopters have been used to good effect as well. Initially, the Soviet Union planned to secure the countryside with military surrogates of the Afghan Army. This foundered on the Afghan Army's low morale and high desertion rate. Over 80,000 strong when the "Revolution" began, Afghan forces now number less than 30,000 and exhibit little will to fight.18 Few in the Afghan Army are communists and informants throughout the organization enable the mujahidin to learn of Soviet operations in advance. Unable to "Vietnamize" the war, Moscow has intensified its effort to brutalize the Afghan population into submis- sion. The central theme of Soviet occupation is one of sheer and inhuman brutality. Most of the atrocities visited on the population are the result of calculation. They are not the misfortunes of collateral damage. Whole sectors of the country have become free fire zones. In areas where Soviet convoys have been attacked, ground and air forces have raided villages, destroyed crops, and bayonetted women and children.19 Small antipersonnel mines disguised as ballpoint pens, books and watches have been air dropped indiscriminately with the intent of maiming the rebels and their supporters.20 Most victims have been children and livestock. A Red Cross hospital in Pakistan now specializes in amputees.21 An incident occurred in 1981 in which twelve rebel sympathizers were executed by running over them with tanks.22 Irrigation wells are systematically polluted, refugee columns are strafed, and camps in Pakistan are subjected to air raids. On September 13, 1982 one hundred and five civilian males who had fled to the shelter of a tunnel were incin- erated alive when Soviet troops pumped gasoline into the tunnel and ignited it with rifle fire.23 Although the popular press in the United States has avoided or equivocated on this issue, there is no doubt about Soviet use of lethal chemical agents in Afghanistan. The State Department reports 59 separate incidents in 15 provinces.24 Lethal agents include persistent and non persistent varieties including tricotlecene toxins which kill in a particularly painful and spectacular fashion, with predictable psychological effects.25 This fact of the war will be addressed in more detail in a following chapter. In short, Soviet policy includes a combination off scorched earth and migratory genocide. Cruelty and atro- cities characterize the Soviet effort in Afghanistan. After five years of war the situation has changed little. Experts estimate that rebels control from 75 to 90 percent of the country.26 It is probably more accurate to say that neither the Soviets nor the freedom fighters control 90 percent of the countryside. Soviet forces are free to move into almost any area but they do not possess enough numerical strength to physically occupy the ground. In any case, only major cities and base areas are safe for the Soviets at night.27 Losses on each side are difficult to know. NATO intelligence estimates place Soviet dead at 5,000 to 10,000 with an additional 10,000 casualties from wounds and illness.28 Soviet expenditures are estimated at from one to three billion dollars annually. Rebel losses are unknown but up to four million Afghans are thought to be refugees.29 The Soviet invasion has a unique place in contemporary history. It represents the first time since World War II that Soviet ground forces have engaged in protracted combat outside the Warsaw Pact area. We no longer have to specu- late about the nature of Soviet war fighting. They are providing us with many examples. CHAPTER TWO Fixed Wing Air War Soviet Frontal Aviation assets in Afghanistan are under the command of 40th Army Headquarters at Kabul which is the overall Soviet command for Afghanistan. The Senior Air Force officer in Afghanistan is this headquarters' Chief of Aviation. The Soviet Air Force's operational headquarters are in Termez, on the Soviet side of the border.1 The Afghanistan Air Force is under the operational control of the Soviet Air Force resulting in the usual complaints by Afghan allies that they do not receive a fair share of the air assets. One former officer of the Kabul regime's 7th Tank Division, now with the guerrillas, reported that his former unit was "wiped out" in an eight day battle at Pul-a-Khumn while receiving no air support.2 There are seven major airfields in Afghanistan from which fixed wing operations are conducted. These are: Herat, Shindand, Farah, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Bagram and Kabul.3 In addition, Soviet medium bombers (probably Su-24 FENCERs and Tu-16 BADGERs) operate from Soviet bases to conduct high altitude strikes against the mujahidin.4 Those strikes have been aimed primarily at villages, towns and along major highways where the rebels assemble for opera- tions against Soviet installations. Currently, Frontal Aviation assets in the country include 45 FLOGGERs, 90 FISHBEDs, 90 Su-17s, 30 Su-25s and a small detachment of 6 - 12 MiG-25s (FOXBAT B and D).5 In 1981 the Su-25 FROGFOOT was deployed to Afghanistan in what amounted to an Op-Eval of the airplane.6 Afghan Air Force assets currently include 45 MiG-21s, 60 - 75 Su-7s, 90 MiG-17s, 45 I1-28s and 45 L-39s. In early 1984 a new Afghan regiment of 45 Su-22s was being organized by the Soviets in Bagram.7 On the whole, Soviet fixed wing operations against the rebels have been remarkably similar to U.S. operations conducted in South Vietnam during that conflict. Close air support, for the most part, is conducted by helicopters. The threat to Soviet air power consists of small arms and SA-7s. This permissive environment allows strikes to be conducted in the 'circle the wagons' fashion which characterized U.S. tactics in the south during the Vietnam war. Both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters routinely dispense flares before, during and after weapons delivery to counter attacks by rebel forces armed with SA-7s.8 The appearance of decoy flare dispensers on Soviet tactical aircraft in Afghanistan is significant and has an obvious impact on our tactics and weapons system development. No data in open source literature verifies the effec- tiveness of flare countermeasures or provides insight as to quantity carried, programmed dispensing, burn times or other technical information of interest. One eyewitness account reported that helicopters and fixed wing aircraft employ flares by having one aircraft dispense them above the target area while another aircraft conducts multiple passes without dispensing flares.9 This suggests a lack of understanding the best methods of employing infrared countermeasures. The rebels have apparently begun to concentrate their efforts with SA-7s against transport aircraft which carry no decoy flares.10 Soviet fixed wing losses to the mujahidin are unknown. Rebel 12.7 and 14.5 mm guns have apparently caused Soviet aircrews to increase weapons release altitudes since mid 1983. Prior to 1983, Soviet aircraft (primarily MiG-21s) would make weapons delivery runs from high altitude and release at 2,000 feet.11 Employment There is little evidence to suggest that fixed wing aircraft are frequently employed in the traditional close air support role in Afghanistan. Support of troops in contact is primarily accomplished by helicopters. Doctrinely the Soviets identify four missions for aircraft: air defense cover reconnaissance aviation escort support.12 'Support' refers to delivery of ordnance in support of friendly forces operating far beyond breached enemy defenses and is analgous to our concept of deep air support or interdiction. 'Aviation escort' usually refers to delivery of ordnance in close proximity to friendly troops near the front lines. In Afghanistan there appears to be a conscious decision to perform support mostly with fixed wing assets and aviation escort with helicopters. In a permissive environ- ment which is a fluid counterinsurgency, this is probably a natural process. Another explanation may lie in the rigidity of Soviet command and control arrangements. In Afghanistan, Forward Air Controllers are assigned to ground regiments when fixed wing or helicopters are assigned for aviation escort. These FACs are called forward air guides (avianovodchiki) and are experienced pilots. The preference is to have a qualified helicopter pilot direct helicopter strikes and fighter bomber pilots direct fixed wing strikes. The air guide is expected to call for air strikes from a control and target identification post (similar to our DASC) when the regimental commander needs air. He then provides target location for the pilots and information on the ground situation. The air guide normally will not attempt to mark a target but will mark friendly positions with pyrotechnics The pilot is primarily responsible for identifying the target although the air guide will assess and adjust for successive runs. According to doctrine minimum safety distances are between 200 and 700 meters from friendly positions.13 In Afghanistan problems have occurred between ground and air forces, especially at lower levels. Procedures worked out before launch often inhibit flexibility and prevent change as the situation evolves. With the air guide at regimental level this is not so strange. The battalion commander normally has no communications with any air support agency. The plans for mutual cooperation worked out beforehand are often incomplete and damage assessment data are slow in traveling up the chain of command. Rebels report flights of HINDs overflying guerrilla groups in the open to attack unoccupied trench lines from which the rebels had just fled.14 This tendency to act "as directed", even if it makes no tactical sense, is recognized as a failing by the hierarchy and presumably corrective action of some sort is underway.15 A note of caution is in order at this point. It would be extremely naive to assume that all Soviet air operations are characterized by blind execution of preplanned strikes. The presence of air guides on the battlefield and reliance on the helicopter, with its natural advantages of endurance, observation and flexibil- ity, over fixed wing aircraft, for close air support in a permissive environment, point to a sharply rising learning curve. FROGFOOT Although a variety of fixed wing aircraft are employed by the Soviets in Afghanistan the Su-25 FROGFOOT deserves a close look. It seems to be tailor made to the nature of the war with the mujahidin. In comparison with the FLOGGER and FITTER, the Su-25 emerges as a classic shturmovik (assaulter) modeled on the WWII Ilyushins. Except for the fact that the Su-25 first appeared in 1977, one might conclude that it was designed and built especially for the war in Afghanistan. The airplane arrived in country in November 1981 and it is generally thought that it's deploy- ment was meant to serve as an operation evaluation. The Su-25 is most frequently compared to the A-10 to which it bears a resemblance of sorts. The FROGFOOT is smaller than the A-10, has 25% less wing area and is 10% lighter at maximum operating weights. The Su-25 has pure jet engines which provide about 25% more thrust than the A-10s. It is generally thought that the Su-25 is 20% faster than the A-10 with a commensurate advantage in energy maneuverability.16 In detail, the Su-25 is a straight forward design. The twin engines are installed below the trailing edge of the wing, and exhaust through abbreviated tailpipes. The geometry of the center-section, with high-set inlets and low-set engines, is reminiscent of the Sepecat Jaguar, but the engines are wider apart and the basic fuselage is both thicker and deeper. There is no all-round vision canopy, and the cockpit is faired into a long, broad spine extending back to the fin; the spine and fuselage allow plenty of space for internal fuel. The nose forward of the cockpit, is drooped and tapered, in the Jaguar/MiG-27 style, to improve the downward view and the tapered tailcone carries a triangular fin and the trapezoidal stabilator. The size of the inlets and engine housings tends to confirm reports that the Su-25 is powered by a non after- burning version of the Tumansky series developed for the MiG-21. These could be either R-13-300s, of 11,240 lb (5,100kg) dry thrust, or the uprated 12,370 lb (5.610kg) R-25 which powers the MiG-21 FISHBED L/N. While such engines do not offer a spectacular thrust to weight ratio or impressive specific fuel consumption, they are cheap, dependable, and can easily push the airframe to its Mach limit. The Su-25 is one of only three twin-engined, single- seat Soviet combat types (the others being the MiG-25 and Su-15) and the first kind designed for Frontal Aviation. Survivability is probably the main reason. The engines are far enough apart to be protected from single round strikes or contagious failures. While the Su-25 does not display all the damage-limiting features of the A-10, it should be more survivable than the MiG-27 and Su-20. Its fuel, for instance, can be all carried in easily-protected fuselage tanks, and its simpler systems are more readily protected or duplicated. It is probable that the Su-25, like the Mi-24 helicop- ter, is designed to be relatively invulnerable to small caliber fire, rather than featuring the much more demanding 23 mm protection applied to the A-10 and AH-64. Western defensive guns tend to be of larger caliber than 20-23 mm, so such protection would be of limited use to a Soviet type. Instead, one could expect the design to feature more widespread, lighter armor such as ballistic nylon. Armament The Su-25 is believed to carry an internal, multi- barrel cannon of 30 mm caliber, although details of its installation are not apparent in illustrations published so far. Others weapons, including the expanding family of Soviet-developed precision-guided bombs, can be carried on external pylons. Three pylons are visible under each wing of Afghan-based aircraft, unequally spaced along the span. There are provisions for as many as ten stations. The belly appears free of pylons, which is not surprising. The wings provide plenty of space for stores, and a clean underside allows a short, simple landing gear which, in turn, puts engines and avionics at a convenient working height. External weapons include guided or unguided bombs, carried two to a pylon on tandem racks, and a selection of tactical air-to-surface missiles (ASMs). Seven new Soviet tactical ASMs have been introduced in the past decade. The Su-25 could also carry the unusual gun-pods seen on the FLOGGER-J, with barrels which can be depressed for ground strafing, and with more pylons available it would be possible for the FROGFOOT to carry the AA-8 APHID for self defense. Avionics Offensive and defensive avionics of the Su-25 are similar to those carried by the MiG-27 and Su-20. Nav/attack systems on these types make use of laser rangefinding. Doppler ground-speed measurement is probably used and, possibly, some form of terrain-avoidance radar to provide accurate clear weather weapon delivery and ASM guidance information, presented to the pilot through a head-up display. Newer Frontal Aviation aircraft also carry an internal electronic countermeasures or surveillance system. On swing-wing types, the system's four antenna are installed on the intake ducts and the tailfin, but the Su-25 has ECM/ESM pods at the tips of its wings, like the Lockheed S-3A. Certainly, the most effective Soviet fixed wing aircraft in Afghanistan is the Su-25 FROGFOOT. It is used in both a close air support role and for deep air support against point targets. They are operated in loose pairs, going in separately and usually low. Resistance sources emphasize the accuracy and lethality of the Su-25. FROGFOOT operations in the Soviet 1983 autumn offensive in the Panjshir Valley were devastating, but their performance in the Summer 1984 offensive was considerably better. Resis- tance sources emphasize that the accuracy of the Su-25 has improved considerably. They can hit point targets in rough terrain with great accuracy. Reportedly, in the Summer 1984 offensive, FROGFOOTs destroyed concealed fortified objec- tives which they could not reach bin 1983. The ranges at which they released munitions and hit are longer, but there is no indication that 'smart-munitions' have been used. Nonetheless, aiming and gunsight systems have been improved.17 In summary the Su-25 improvements which have been made possible by the war in Afghanistan may eventually prove to be one of the conflict's greatest contributions to Soviet airpower. Even if the Su-25 is judged to be unnecessary for Europe, it might prove well suited to the combat conditions foreseen for the Eastern borders of the Soviet Union. There, fighter and SAM defenses are far weaker and long logistic lines favor a simpler aircraft. Deployment of the FROGFOOT could release more capable types for the western theater. The Su-25 could also be a useful aircraft to some of the Soviet Union's allies, clients and less trustworthy satellites. Click here to view image Tactics The planning and coordination of most of the air effort takes place in Termez just across the border from Afghanistan. At Termez the Soviets are believed to be basing both Su-24s and Tu-16s. This base houses many of the maintenance and support activities which aid prosecution of the air war. Tu-16s and Su-24s operating from the Soviet Union provide high altitude strikes aimed primarily at rebel assembly areas and lines of communication. The fixed wing aircraft most frequently mentioned by eyewitnesses is the MiG-21. The section is the basic fighting element and attack profiles are usually commenced from high altitude with multiple passes in the same target area. The high altitude attack is not always used. One journalist mentioned seeing both MiG-21s and Su-25s use "nap of the earth" low level attacks to deliver cluster bombs with drogue chutes.19 Given the nature of the threat to Soviet aircraft, it seems unlikely that a low level ingress is a standard tactic. Descriptions of low level attacks can probably be attributed to efforts by the Soviets to surprise the rebels or to weapons delivery profiles required for retarded ordnance. Most fixed wing strikes appear to be conducted in an interdiction role rather than close support of engaged troops (where helicopters are used). Good use is being made of air guides (forward air controllers) including helicopterborne air guides, primarily in the terminal control of attack helicopters and to a lesser extent Su-25s.20 Transport Aviation The first use of the mechanized airborne force was in Afghanistan. A task force some 10,000 strong consisting of an Air Assault Division and two regiments were airlifted into the country over a period of twenty days. An-12s and An-26s serve as reconnaissance aircraft, provide battlefield illumination during night combat operations, serve as airborne command posts and provide logistic support of all types.21 The illumination mission typically consists of flights of two An-12s dropping four to seven flares which light up an area of three square kilometers for up to 10 minutes.22 Munitions A wide range of aviation ordnance is used in Afghanistan and is delivered by both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. These munitions include: napalm, anti- personnel cluster bombs, anti-personnel mines, 57 mm rockets, 80 mm rockets, anti-tank guided missiles, air to surface missiles, white phosphorous rockets, smoke, fuel air explosives, 250 kg bombs, 500 kg bombs, internal and pod mounted gun, decoy flares and a variety of lethal and non-lethal chemical agents. Accounts from journalists who have managed to sneak into Afghanistan frequently note that a high number of bombs are duds. The use of anti-personnel mines in the area denial role is a wide spread practice in Afghanistan. One such mine is the PFM-1, nicknamed the Green Parrot by rebel forces. This small mine, like mines mentioned earlier which resemble pens, watches and small books, is designed to maim rather than kill. The Green Parrot is small (112 mm) and is constructed entirely of plastic. It is shaped like a tissue paper tube with two small wings A direct pressure of about ten pounds will detonate it. Reports from Afghanistan reveal that as many as 200 amputations a month are caused by Green Parrots.23 Fuel air explosives (FAE) have been used in four provinces of Afghanistan since the war began. The FAE bomb has the shape and size of a 500 kg bomb and in those cases where the delivery was witnessed, it was delivered by a Su-17 FITTER. The bomb explodes in the air and a crater 30 feet in diameter and up to 8 feet deep is left. There are no signs of burning or fragments and victims show no external injuries. The lethal radius seems to be about 500 meters.24 Chemical Warfare Of all the Soviet methods and actions in Afghanistan, the reliance on chemical weapons has perhaps the greatest importance as a lesson for potential adversaries. Soviet chemical warfare started as early as April 1979 when helicopters fired rockets filled with non-lethal agents during the suppression of an uprising in Herat. In one attack in Wardak province in 1981 a helicopter fired rockets into a group of mujahidin on an inaccessible hilltop. All died immediately, "as if frozen in place". A soldier of the Soviet Chemical Troops (KHV) captured by rebels said that his mission was to examine villages after a chemical attack to determine whether they were safe to enter or required decontamination. He also reported that hem and his fellow KHV troops visited contaminated areas to collect soil, vegetation and water samples as well as to perform autopsies on Afghan villagers found in the contaminated areas. Another defector described the use of several lethal agents derived from sulphuric acid, phosphorous and mycotoxins. 25 In 1983, the Soviets began to use a tar-like substance which is delivered by aircraft using CBU type munitions. This agent falls in large droplet's which lay on the ground for months. When stepped on or driven over by vehicles, the droplets burst into flames with predictable results. This persistent agent has proven very effective in an area denial role. 26 Chemical agents are usually delivered by helicopters. Aircrews are told to wear gas masks as precautionary measures.27 The loss of life from chemical warfare in Afghanistan is unknown, but it is safe to say that this aspect of the war alone should be the subject of a detailed study. There is a persistent and efficient use of chemical weapons. Chemical warfare is an integral component of Soviet small unit military operations which we could ignore only at great peril. Experience in Afghanistan suggests that "weapons of mass destruction" or not, chemical agents are as much a part of the Soviet inventory for conventional war as the bayonet is for the Marine Corps. Not to use them would be to ignore Marshal Sokolovsky's dictum: "A war must be conducted decisively, using the necessary forces and means to achieve political and military goals. The need for success is incompatible with the requirement for limiting the scale of combat operations".28 The Soviets would forfeit the benefits of a marked superiority in training and equipment by not using chemical agents at the outset of hostilities. CHAPTER THREE "The fewer helicopters you had the more troops you required . . . give a hundred men helicopters and they will do the work of a thousand . . . a battalion with six Wessex helicopters was worth more to me than a brigade without them." -- General Sir Walter Walker, Commander of British Forces during the confrontation with Indonesia Helicopters He had learned what every other commander - British, French, American and now Soviet - has learned: the helicop- ter is the single most important weapon in counter-guerrilla operations. For the Soviets, with 140,000 troops attempting to subdue a people of some 15 million, the mobility and firepower of their helicopter force makes the war possible. Tank communism triumphed in Czechoslovakia, water cannon communism is winning in Poland and helicopter gunship communism is in full sway in the mountains of Afghanistan. A Soviet military writer describes the dilemma which surrounds the conduct of air support. "The airplane did not have sufficient maneuver- ability to ensure the pilot a strike from his first and subsequent approaches without the loss of visual contact with the target. Heavy assault planes overcame that anti-aircraft zone rapidly, but were slow in deploying to the target. Light planes, on the other hand, were able to change their flight direction rapidly, but came out of the anti-aircraft zone slowly . . . Assault planes' pilots were given an impossible task -- to perform three operations at the same time: seek the target, avoid anti-aircraft fire, and not lose sight of the front line. Under these conditions, pilots frequently made strikes against their own troops."1 This thought process has provided the impetus for development of the helicopter as an element of the Combined Arms Army in the Soviet Union. Over the past decade, Soviet military thought has increasingly recognized assault helicopters as an integral part of the family of weapons for aviation support. Mi-4 and Mi-8 helicopters fitted with rockets and machine guns provided aviation support during the exercises Dnepr (1967), Dvina (1970), and various Shield maneuvers. In 1976, three major exercises, Sever (North), Kavkaz (Caucasus), and Shield, featured heliborne operations designed to lend immediate fire support to ground forces. Especially since 1976, the Soviets have conducted training designed to weld tank, motorized rifle, and attack helicopter teams. Heli- copter crews receive detailed training in various types of ground forces operations.2 Despite a long period of uncertain commitment to direct support, current Soviet writers now view direct support in all its forms as the fundamental mission of Frontal Aviation. Colonel-General G. Skorikov stated in August 1978: "The Air Force's modern technical equipment makes it possible to strike the enemy's means of attack, to support troops, to struggle for dominance in the air, to carry out special reconnaissance, and to solve other complex tasks.3 Colonel-General Skorikov notes that "the third genera- tion of warplanes and helicopters is being successfully mastered." He and other top military figures clearly take pride in the attainment of a well-balanced tactical air force, capable of performing all missions of direct support. For the first time since 1945, the Soviets have several different types of aircraft to perform each of four direct support tasks. This in itself offers Soviet tacticians considerable flexibility in combat, for the relative strengths of one aircraft can compensate for the weaknesses of another. Click here to view image Structural changes have also taken place in the Soviet organization for air combat. Theater (TVD) Air Forces have replaced the numbered Tactical Air Armies and there is now an element known as army aviation (armeiskaya aviatsiya). There is a great deal of confusion regarding the new structure in Western open source literature. The term Army Aviation in the Soviet context has a different meaning than that of Army Aviation as applied to the United States Army. Soviet Army Aviation denotes an Army level aviation force with helicopters flown by Air Force pilots although they are referred to as 'army aviators'. The helicopters are still the 'property' of Frontal Aviation. It is not unlike the organization for combat used by the Marine Corps in forming MAGTFs. It is interesting to note that the Soviets, too, use composite units to increase flexibility. Taking the Group of Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG) as an example of the new organization, each of the five ground armies has its own attack helicopter regiment of two squadrons of about 20 HIND D/Es each and an Mi-8 HIP E squadron, also of 20 helicopters. A flight of six HINDs is also included in the helicopter squadron which each of the 19 divisions now has. So, in a four-division army in GSFG approximately 64 HIND D/Es can be expected. With each divisional commander having sixteen HINDs, decentralization has been taken even further. The Soviets have aimed through these actions for a closer relationship between air and ground forces. The creation of 'Army Aviation' seeks to overcome previous shortcomings by giving army commanders their own helicopter assets. With this decentralization, it should be possible to achieve shorter response times to requests for air support, greater tactical flexibility and more effective integration with ground forces. The Soviet experience in Afghanistan will serve to reinforce the concept of the helicopter as the weapon of first choice for air support. Order of Battle Combat helicopters played a key role in the initial Soviet intervention in Afghanistan as early as April 1978 and at that time some Aeroflot Mi-8s were pressed into service by installing rocket pods on them. It is difficult to estimate the current level of helicopter forces in the country, but as of this writing Soviet forces probably include: 132 Mi-24s, 105 Mi-8s and Mi-17s, 37 Mi-6s, and an assortment of Mi-2s, Mi-4s, special duty Mi-8s, and a handful of Mi-26s. Thirty-five additional helicopters of unknown type deployed to Bagram in the spring of 1984 and are not included in the figures above.4 Additionally, the Afghan Air Force has 150 Mi-8s and Mi-24 A and Bs organized in three composite regiments at Kabul International Airport.5 Employment In an article published in Krasnaya Zrezda (29 April 1980) entitled "Wings of the Motorized Rifleman" Lt. Col. Romanov describes some of the tasks and characteristics of helicopters in Afghanistan: lift motorized riflemen to "high and inaccessible mountains" provide direct fire support with rockets the swiftness of the heli-borne assault operate in severe weather "wind gusting to over 20 meters per second" (44 mph) special aerial mine laying by the Mi-8 deliver BMP anywhere with Mi-6 lift mountain guns and mortars with prime movers provide aerial target identification and fire adjustment (FACs and AOs) conduct reconnaissance evacuate the wounded resupply ammunitions and rations Some additional functions performed by helicopters in Afghanistan which Romanov did not mention are: Flank security Airborne command and control Airborne radio relay Delivery of chemical agents Electronic warfare Smoke laying Battlefield illumination Demonstration heli-borne assault (Deception) Convoy escort6 It is clear that the helicopter is the single most important weapon in the Soviet-Afghanistan war. Helicopter Close Air Support The HINDs first went into action in Afghanistan in 1979 - 1980 (employment of HIND units predates the invasion in December 1979) and used tactics that revealed little fear of the opposition. HINDs would engage rebels from a hover, at low altitude. Attacks with machine guns, 57 mm rockets, cluster and 250 kg bombs would also be made in diving attacks from about 3,000 feet, breaking away at the end of the delivery with a sharp evasive turn or terrain- hugging flight before repositioning for another pass. The Soviets would use these tactics with up to four HINDs in a circular pattern similar to the 'circle of death' used by Soviet I1-2 Shturmoviki during World War II.7 While these tactics could be deadly against unarmed civilians, significant losses were incurred and by late 1980 changes were taking place. Targets are now preplanned to the maximum extent practical and air guides on the ground or in scout heli- copters provide terminal control of the strike. Typically, a flight of from two to six HINDs will approach the target at medium altitude and descend to about 300 feet when five to ten miles away. The flight is briefed by the FAC who describes the target, route in and out, marks his own position (if the FAC is on the ground) and coordinates timing. On instruction from the FAC, the flight lead climbs to acquire the target and deliver fire in a shallow dive commencing at the maximum range of the weapon (usually rockets or guns). The lead's wingman follows and the second section may provide suppressive fire while the lead element jinks off target. The second element may also provide high cover, ready to attack whoever opens fire on the attacking element.8 HIND D and Es are most effective using this method although HIPs participate as well by standing off with 57 mm or 80 mm rockets. One of the keys to the success of Soviet air support, by both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, can be attri- buted to the growing employment and efficiency of their FACs, particularly FAC(A)s. One of the prime innovators in the evolution of Soviet combat helicopter tactics appears to be Colonel Boris Gregor'vich Budnikov. While a Lieutenant Colonel, Budnikov commanded a composite helicopter regiment based at Kabul in 1980. A 5,000 hour pilot and one of the rare Soviet media 'stars' of the war, Budnikov's views were expressed to his fellow air force officers in "Maneuver and Shock", Aviatziya I Kosmonautika 4-1980 and "The Mountains Do Not Forgive Mistakes", 9-1980 issue of the same journal. Budnikov has supported the use of scout helicopters for target acquisi- tion, both for attack helicopters as well as fixed- wing aircraft. These tactics have apparently been adopted. Reports from Afghanistan have mentioned the use of scout helicopters, although these are usually HINDs or even HIPs rather than lighter helicopters. Like their U.S. counterparts in Vietnam, Soviet commanders prefer to gain altitude for directing the operations in command helicopters. This certainly is consistent with their use of scout helicopters (which may very well contain the flight commanders) but, as in Vietnam, has resulted in the loss of some senior officers.9 Target marking is typically accomplished with smoke or white phosphorous rockets. Ground based FACs usually mark their own position with red smoke. Initially, the Resistance recognized the smoke rockets as a warning sign for an impending aerial strike, and dispersed. In a Panjshir Valley offensive, a FAC helicopter marked the targets only seconds before the aerial strike, so that Resistance forces had scant time to escape. The effectiveness of these aerial strikes is very high.10 It is interesting to judge the gunship's area satur- ation capability to gain an appreciation for the opposition that the mujahidin face. Four Mi-8s are capable of carrying a total of 758 57 mm rockets which can cover an area of 250x300 meters. Moreover, helicopter delivered rocket fire, unlike artillery for example, does not suffer from the drawbacks of reverse slopes and dead space.11 In addition to the usual range of air delivered munitions, the Soviets have adapted the AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher to the HIND E. This weapon delivers a 30 mm grenade out to 1,200 meters with a rate of fire between 40 and 58 rounds per minute.12 Considerable use of helicopters to escort convoys is natural given the nature of the terrain and opposing forces. Each supply convoy carries a FAC whose job it is to direct helicopters to strike any force which attacks the convoy. In researching convoy escort a number of interesting items regarding the relationship of the Soviets to the Afghan Air Force become apparent. Normally, Afghan piloted helicopters are not assigned to strike sensitive targets. They do perform tasks such as convoy escort. Despite heavy political indoctrination of Afghan pilots it is apparent that the Soviets do not fully trust them to conduct operations against the mujahidin without super- vision. Afghan aircrews are informed only at the last moment of the nature of the operation and a Soviet officer always accompanies the Afghan piloted helicopters and can countermand any order given by an Afghan officer. All maintenance work at one base is carried out by Soviet technicians who control all spare parts.13 Another unusual facet of the helicopter close air support war in Afghanistan is the use of Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs). A Helicopter Expedient Refueling System (HERS) called the GZST-4-1250 is used to refuel helicopters in remote locations while HINDs carry additional ordnance in the cabin with which to rearm in the field. The GZST-4-1250 is an air transportable system which can be set up by four men in thirty-five minutes and can refuel four aircraft simultaneously. A HIND clan be field refueled and rearmed in about 60 minutes or simply 'hot pumped' if no rearming is required.14 Assault Support In the December 1982 issue of Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika (Aviation and Cosmonautics), an article appeared describing a Soviet heliborne training operation in the mountains. It emphasized the importance of close cooperation among all branches of troops involved in the operation. The training most likely is based on Soviet experience in Afghanistan, since it began by naming several helicopter pilots who recently received medals for achievements in "combat and political training." Additionally, although the location of this exercise was not given, some of the pilots named were identified in other articles of the Soviet military press as being from the Turkestan Military District. This military district is a primary staging and support area for Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Generally, the article is written for Soviet aviation personnel, however, it does focus on the problems of working with motorized rifle units. The airmobile operation consisted of a helicopter regiment landing motorized rifle troops in the "enemy's" rear. The article attributed the success of the operation to close coordination between aviation personnel and the landing troops. It stated that prior to their service in this region, the pilots had "some" experience in working with motorized rifle troops. However, in a mountainous desert region, that experience proves to be insufficient. This particular operation was successful primarily because the pilots had received additional training in landing troops in mountainous settings. These helicopter crews were well acquainted with maneuver unit commanders down to company and platoon levels. This factor played an important role in coordinating the actions of the helicopter crews and motorized rifle units. In the operation described, two groups of helicopters carried the motorized rifle troops, while a third group of helicopters provided fire support for the landing operation. During the flight to the landing area, the heliborne troops fired on enemy positions. They did this by firing through open windows. During the landing process, the commander of the helicopter regiment provided "control over the operation" from a separate helicopter. A fourth helicopter group was assigned an evacuation and rescue mission. After the troops landed and while they were engaged in fighting the "enemy" for control of the area, the helicop- ters provided fire support. Once the enemy dispersed and retreated deeper into the mountains, the helicopters returned to their airfield. The article concluded that such missions are now common and that the pilots "would fly a similar mission on the following day." During a Panjsher offensive in May 1982, Soviet helicopters inserted blocking forces that acted as the 'anvil' to the 'hammer' of the mechanized combined arms force.15 The Soviets have conducted heliborne operations of many sizes. On 21 April 1984 the Resistance destroyed the upper structure of the Mattok bridge on the Ghorband river, south of Salang tunnel. When they concentrated for a repeated attack on the bridge, the Soviets launched a surprise heliborne operation that wiped out the entire force, estimated to be 1,500 - 2,000 strong. The rebels tried to hide during the day in a valley, the Soviets landed two companies, some 200 troops, on two mountains which control the back exit from the valley, and blocked it. Almost immediately, the trapped Resistance forces were subjected to aerial strikes by helicopters and aircraft. Any attempt to advance out of the valley was blocked by the Soviet troops. Available reports emphasize the ferocity of the Soviet fire support and the high level of casualties. Apparently, some of the attacks were carried out too close to the heliborne troops. There were casual- ties among them. Thus, in a relatively brief operation, the Soviets virtually eliminated the threat to their main axis of transportation before any meaningful damage could be done.16 Whenever a Soviet troop column or supply convoy moves into rebel territory, it is accompanied by a mixture of HINDs and HIPs. While half of the helicopters remain overhead watching for Resistance activity, the others land troops on key terrain ahead of the advancing column. These troops provide security until the column passes after which the process is repeated.17 Another variant of this activity involves flank protection for advancing forces. While one helicopter element is moving to capture a commanding height or road intersection in an aggressive airstrike combined with disembarking troops, helicopters of another element will apply wait and see ambush tactics, ready to move to another 'hide' position or to attack from the flank any enemy threatening the advancing force.18 This type of leapfrogging tactic generally makes it difficult for the Afghan rebels to halt Soviet offensives by striking at supply lines. A typical rebel tactic in the early stages of war was to besiege villages containing Soviet forces. Hostile tribesmen, usually in rocky defensive positions surrounding the towns, were attacked first by rockets and napalm from MiG-21s and then by rockets and machinegun fire from the Mi-24 helicopter gunships. This was quickly followed by airborne infantry carried in Mi-6 helicopters, each able to carry 75 soldiers who hunted out the insurgents, killing, capturing or driving them away. Within a short time, sieges had been raised, and the mujahidin pushed back several miles.19 In "Wings of the Motorized Rifleman" Krasnaya Zvezda 29 April 1980, Lt. Col. Romanov describes a helicopterborne assault of battalion size (400 to 500 troops). An LZ security force, probably a reinforced platoon, is dis- patched. The LZ preparation includes helicopter rocket fire and a 'mad moment' by infantrymen with their organic weapons fired from inside the helicopter just prior to landing. Close on the heels of the security force, the main assault force arrives. While the enemy is tied down with the main assault force, an enveloping force assaults into the enemy rear. This enveloping force blocks the advance of the enemy's reserve and supports the main attack. When rein- forcements are requested, mountain guns and mortars are delivered and mines are layed to protect a flank. The purpose of the article seems to be three-fold: to stress the utility of the helicopter, to highlight proper technique for conducting airmobile operations and finally to highlight the value of helicopterborne assaults particularly in mountainous terrain. The scenario is vintage Afghanistan. Helicopterhorne assault landings (desanty) have for some years been an attractive option for Soviet Army commanders who wished to destroy important targets or to capture vital ground or installations in the enemy rear. The war in Afghanistan has made it possible to put doctrine to practice and refine the helicopter as a weapon which will permit the seizure of key road junctions, control key terrain, prevent committment of reserves, disrupt movement to contact, isolate command and control and break logistic routes to mention a few. Air Assault Brigades U.S. Department of Defense sources have finally confirmed the existence of a new type of unit in the Soviet order of battle: the air assault brigade. The first two air assault brigades were identified in the early mid-1970s at Mogocha in the Trans-Baikal Military District and Magdagachi in the Far East Military District. Since then a number of these brigades have been organized and no less than five are believed to be currently deployed in Afghanistan. One may be stationed at Neureppin, East Germany. The air assault brigade differs from previous Soviet units. It stresses the helicopter as its primary means of mobility. It is not the same as a U.S. Army airmobile unit, because the air assault brigade's helicopters are not organic to the unit. Rather, they are retained by the air force. It is believed that all air assault brigade personnel are jump-trained and wear the traditional blue beret and striped vest of the Airborne Forces. The brigade consists of three rifle battalions and supporting units. Its strength, exclusive of helicopters, is believed to be 1,800 to 2,500, although some estimates are as high as 3,000. An air assault brigade can be lifted by two helicopter regi- ments, and a third regiment with Mi-24 HIND attack helicop- ters would provide fire support and clear landing zones for the lift ships. For a number of years some U.S. intelligence sources doubted the existence of these brigades believing them to be misidentifications of either Raydoviki (ranger) or airborne units. Only recently has it appeared that they do exist.20 Mine and Smoke Laying Mi-8 HIP helicopters have been seen equipped with minelaying chutes for several years. Even Aeroflot-marked Mi-8s were equipped with them during the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Each HIP, with its single mine laying chute, can lay one mine a second, yielding a spacing of one surface mine per two to three meters of front. A 'foot' at the bottom of the minelaying chute helps to ensure that the mines fall properly. The mines are apparently released by a mechanical timer. The HIP flies at two to four knots, less than six meters above the ground. Standard TM-60 anti-tank mines can be carried, and a HIP can reasonably carry a load of 400 of these mines. Thus, a two-helicopter flight could plant an 800 meter, two-row anti-tank strip minefield with a density of one mine per meter of frontage in under five minutes. This is obviously valuable in protecting the flanks of Soviet penetrations and helping to consolidate temporary defensive positions.21 Articles on the war in Afghanistan mention mines as frequently as any other aspect of the war and it is certain that the Soviets depend heavily on all types of mines. Helicopters are regarded as a very efficient means of laying smoke screens and would clearly be used to do this on the future battlefield if priorities for their employment allowed. They would lay smoke with bombs or by means of a pyrotechnic generator on board or by BDSh smoke pots dropped at low altitude. Twenty four BDSh-15 pots can be carried in a HIP and put out by hand from chutes 50 - 60 meters above the ground level at 150 - 210 km/h. It takes only two minutes to put out 24 pots, producing a five-kilometer screen for five or fifteen minutes depending on the pot used (BDSh-5 or -15).22 Soviet Problems The helicopter air war in Afghanistan has not been without difficulties. HIND units have been criticized in the Soviet press for flying into concentrations of anti- aircraft weapons, failing to take evasive action when fired on, and attacking positions that the enemy has vacated. This is obviously a continual problem in HIND units, as shown in articles such as "Suddenly, Swiftly" in Aviatsiya i Kozmonautica 9-1980 and "Firing Against Abandoned Trenches" in Krasnaya Zvezda 16 April 1982. In the latter the erring aircrew 'volunteered' to be attached to motorized rifle units to understand the importance of working closely with the ground troops. Problems have also appeared with the helicopters themselves. The loss of Soviet helicopters to SA-7s in 1980 led to a change in tactics at the end of 1980 or early 1981. The HINDs then started using nap-of-the-earth flight patterns for which their crews were improperly trained. There have been reports of HIND rotors striking the tail during nap-of-the-earth flight. Wear on airframes and systems has greatly increased, yielding an increased rate of operational attrition. The workhorse of Frontal Aviation's tactical helicopter units, the Mi-8 HIP, provides its own suppression with 57 mm rocket pods, and is used as an attack helicopter--especially the HIP-E version. Yet a former Afghan Air Force HIP pilot, now with the guerrillas, reports that the HIP's dangerously exposed fuel system was unpopular with its crews. The high density altitude performance, crucial in Afghanistan, left much to be desired. Trim control was especially inadequate in these conditions. The 1,500 hour rotor life, he reports, is a problem, as is the lack of an engine quick-change capability. The faults that limited the effectiveness of helicopter employment were not restricted to the aircraft and their aircrews. "Fire Support from the Air", for example, criticizes army commanders who failed to use effectively the aviation assets that the new, more flexible, control system had put within their authority. The ground forces have also let down the helicopter units in ground defense of airbases. The 355th Independent Helicopter Regiment lost about 12 helicopters during the night of 27/28 December 1982 when defecting Kabul regime troops let guerrillas inside the perimeter at Jalalabad airfield.23 Attacks on airbases are a common rebel tactic. On the night of July 13/14, 1984, Resistance forces shelled Bagram for three hours with Chinese 107 mm unguided rockets and a variety of mortars. These weapons are not heavy enough to cause permanent damage but this particular attack closed that base to fixed wing operations until late July 14th.24 Lt. Mohammed Nassim Shadidi who defected from the Afghan Air Force early in 1984, flew HIND Bs and has described some of the characteristic problems of the air war. Shadidi was selected from among the trainees in the Afghan army's recruit program to become an officer cadet and attend flight school. He was trained at the Afghan air academy located at Kabul and then spent 10 months at an air base at Mazar-I-Sharif learning to fly the Mi-8. After a tour of duty in the Mi-8, he was sent to the Kabul inter- national airport at Kwajarawash and trained on the Mi-24 HIND B. The Afghan air force has 40 of the HIND Bs at Kwajarawash, of which only 30 were operational at the time of Shadidi's defection. The remaining 10 were being cannibalized for spare parts, he said. Despite heavy political indoctrination of Afghan pilots, it was apparent to Shadidi that the Soviets did not fully trust them to conduct operations against the mujahidin without supervision. Shadidi believes that in some cases, such as the fairly frequent raids into Pakistani border areas where Afghan rebel forces often regroup, the aircraft may be flown entirely by Soviet flight crews operating from Soviet bases in Afghanistan. Shadidi said that Soviet-flown HIND D/E helicopter gunships were usually given the close-support missions, while the Afghan air force's HIND A/B helicopters were used for convoy escort and other work which did not always lead to conflicts with the mujahidin. Shadidi said the HIND A/B had a number of faults, one of which was the main rotor's inability to tolerate hits by machine gun fire. Pilots were routinely warned to stay away from ground fire if possible. The main problem with the HIND, he said, was that it was underpowered for some of the conditions under which it had to operate and for some of the missions it was called on to perform. Engines in his helicopter were two Isotov TV3-117R turboshafts. These provide a small margin of power for making evasive maneuvers and this limits the amount of control input a HIND pilot can make. The HIND also has a weak tail boom, he said. The HIND A/B, unlike the HIND C/D versions flown by the Soviets, does not have bullet-resistant glass in the cockpit. The fight crew has a manually operated steel shield located on either side of the cockpit, which normally is stowed, but can be raised to afford protection from small arms fire from either side. The shields, however, tend to impede both the pilot's and gunner's vision and some flight crews did not like to use the shields for this reason. Some losses were blamed on flight crews being hit with small arms fire while the cockpit shields were down. The gunner in the HIND A/B has a set of controls which he can use to fly the helicopter during a gunnery run and his sight provides speed, range and angular data on the target. HIND A/B airframes had an operational life of 2,000 hours, Shadidi said, and required a major overhaul every 200 hours. All major overhauls were done at Termez although lesser maintenance work was done at operating bases in Afghanistan. During the HIND A/B overhaul, the rotor head was routinely replaced. Shadidi's HIND had been equipped with three radio transmitters used for single functions. A set designated the R842 was used for communications with the base at Kwajarawash. An R860 unit was used for communication with other aircraft in the formation and a unit designated the SP07 was used for internal communication among crew members in the same helicopter, and also for communication with troops after they were landed. The HIND has a gas-operated engine exhaust coolant system that can be used for a maximum of about 3 minutes and is designed to counter incoming, heat-seeking ground- launched missiles. Shadidi said that up to the time of his defection, the Afghan Air Force alone had lost 164 aircraft, both fixed- wing and helicopters. This includes aircraft lost to the mujahidin and those flown away by defectors. The government officially acknowledges the death of 230 air crew members. The Soviets have increased the rate of Afghan pilot training and what Shadidi termed "large numbers" of univer- sity graduates were being indoctrinated and selected for flying aptitude examination. These examinations were given in the Soviet Union. Shadidi said that the Afghan Air Force has been told it would receive additional HIND helicopters. The Afghan Air Force also was anticipating receipt of some Antonov An-30 transports. Initial use of the SA-7 by the mujahidin took the Soviets by surprise when eight Mi-8s were shot down early in 1983 during one operation. The action occurred near Khost, south of Kabul, and at least some of the Soviet helicopters were hit by the SA-7s. Shadidi, who was a HIND B pilot at the time, said the incident was the first time the Soviets had encountered the massed use of SA-7s. He said that even though Afghan and Soviet pilots were housed in different compounds, he was aware of near panic on the Soviets' part and said that they took the missile threat seriously. Afghan-operated Mi-24s, Mi-8s and Mi-4s were subse- quently equipped with decoy flare dispensers. None of the helicopters assigned to the Afghan Air Force initially had the capability of dispensing decoy flares to protect against SA-7 attacks, Shadidi said, but after the heavy losses at Khost, all Mi-24s, Mi-8s and Mi-4s were fitted with flare dispensers over a three-month period. Shadidi said his HIND carried 120 flares in a tail-mounted dispenser that could eject them to either side. A missile warning system also was installed, with a warning light in the cockpit.25 John Gunston, a British journalist, who visited rebel units described SA-7 employment in an article for Aviation Week and Space Technology. "One missile was launched at an Antonov AN-12, but failed to hold its lock on the air- craft's infrared emissions and missed the target. The second had an apparent short circuit within the launch tube. When the operator attempted to fire it, smoke came from both ends of the launcher and the operator quickly threw the missile down the side of the mountain, fearing a premature explosion. The only successful launch of a SA-7 that I saw occurred on July 14 north of Bagram, when the missile was fired at and hit a Mil Mi-6. The helicopter crew made an attempt at a forced landing, but crashed. The Mujahidin later reported that there were 57 killed in the crash, mostly Soviet infantrymen." The Soviet air war in Afghanistan has been expensive, but the Soviets are learning. The absence of a credible rebel air defense capability has shaped Soviet tactics accordingly but the long term value of lessons learned in this war will be very high. The best training will always be actual combat and Soviet Air Forces are getting plenty of both. HIND The Mi-8 HIP and the Mi-24 HIND dominate the helicopter air war in Afghanistan. Other types are present including the massive new Mi-26 which will carry 40,000 pounds and is as large as a C-l30, but the HIND and HIP are the true workhorses of this conflict. The Mi-8 in the HIP-E variant carries twenty-four combat troops and is capable of mounting six 57 mm rocket pods of thirty-two rockets each, four anti-tank missiles and a chin mounted 12.7 mm gun. The ability of the HIP to carry so many troops and provide this level of fire power make it an exceptionally capable helicopterborne assault platform. The HIND can carry eight to ten troops and an impressive assortment of ordnance. The HIND has been the principle close air support platform in the Afghanistan conflict and may be the finest attack helicopter in the world today. Click here to view image * with 1x750 kg auxiliary tank All in all, the structural design and overall configur- ation of the Mi-24 is broadly similar to that of the Mi-8. The "signature" of the now-deceased designer Mil is so clearly recognizable in the Mi-24 that many details of the Mi-8 can be assumed to be the same in the Mi-24. At the rear of the central fuselage section are the wings, which have several degrees of anhedral and contribute a significant proportion of the total lift at cruise speeds. Each wing has two hardpoints for external stores, and an end-plate at the tip for missile launcher rails or tubes. The wing consists of a torsion box with the leading and trailing edge structures attached. The layout of the powerplant is similar to that of the Mi-8, with two turboshafts mounted side-by-side above the freight compartment, together with the oil cooler. The two TV3-117 engines each develop 1,650kW of power, although pressure losses caused by the rounded air-intake plugs usually seen on the HIND E are likely to cause a power loss of up to 10 percent. Also to be taken into account is the typical Soviet flat-rating of the engines to between 12 and 15 percent below maximum sea level power, which ensures uniform power output over a wide temperature and altitude range. If one engine fails, the other is automatically run up to full power. A turbine auxiliary power unit mounted behind the main gearbox makes the Mi-24 independent of ground equipment for systems check-out and engine starting. The fuel supply is divided about equally between under-floor tanks and a main feeder tank located behind the freight compartment. In addition to these, an auxiliary tank can be hard-mounted in the freight compartment; this could be a standard tank, like the one in the Mi-26 exhi- bited at the 1984 Paris air show. This tank is likely to hold between 900 and 1,000 liters of fuel, representing an additional fuel weight of 740-820 kg. The configuration of the rotor system is familar enough, with a five-bladed main rotor and a three-bladed tail rotor. The rotor head is of conventional design with flap and drag hinges, drag dampers and automatic droop stops. The design of the main blades is similar to that of the Mi-8's, with a tubular main spar and pockets of aluminum sandwich material. In view of its primary role of close air support, the HIND is powerfully armed with a variety of weapons. The gun armament consists of four-barrel led 12.7 mm Gatling gun mounted in a turret in the fuselage nose. The gun can be trained over wide aiming arcs, likely to extend from +15o to -60o in elevation, and from -70o or -80o to +70o or +80o in azimuth. Its rate of fire, by analogy with single-barrelled Soviet weapons of the same caliber, is unlikely to exceed 4,200 rounds/minute. Stowage space for about 2,000 rounds of ammunition is provided beneath the pilot's cockpit. The maximum effective range of the gun is probably between 1,200 and 1,300 m. It is worth nothing that the gun can fire not only armor-piercing but also high-explosive incendiary shells, the belts normally containing 20 percent tracer rounds. The standard weapon fit of the HIND includes Type UB-32 rocket launcher pods, each containing 32 unguided 57 mm rockets. The rockets can be armed with high-explosive, high-explosive incendiary or hollow-charge warheads capable of piercing up to 230 mm of armour. The maximum effective range of the unguided rockets is unlikely to exceed 1,200 m (the flat part of the rocket trajectory). The Russians appreciate rockets and have equipped a number of different helicopter types with the S-5 57 mm rocket, usually in pods containing 16 or 32 each. HIP E/F, for example, can carry 192 of these rockets in six pods. The rocket itself has a diameter of 55 mm and carries HE, HEAT, chaff or fragmentation warheads. The HIND has from time to time also been equipped with the S-8 80 mm rocket. The armor penetration capability of these rockets, which are armed with modern hollow-charge warheads, is likely to be in the range of 350 to 400 mm. A novel mission for helicopters, but one necessary for the HIND's primary role of close air support, is bombing. Inboard pylons can carry bombs of up to 500 kg, outboard pylons carry up to 250 kg. Total bomb load is 1,500 kg. The anti-tank missiles carried by the HIND D are different from those of the HIND E. The D version is armed with four AT-2 SWATTER missiles, while the HIND E carries four AT-6 SPIRALs; both missiles have radio command-to-line- of-sight guidance. No photos of the latter missile have yet been published, and any deductions concerning the missile must therefore be based on the dimensions of the launch tube. The missile's very high fineness ratio points quite clearly to a supersonic speed. This means that, for a given missile range, the length of time the HIND is exposed to enemy defensive fire is significantly reduced. It can be assumed that the AT-6 has a speed of 450 m/s, three times the AT-2s speed of 150 m/s. According to Jane's All the World's Aircraft, the range of the AT-6 is between 7 km and 10 km. A more realistic estimate of the SPIRAL's effective range is about 5 km, this figure representing the end of the powered flight phase, although even after 10 km the missile's speed will only have fallen to about 150 m/s. These performance figures take into account only the missile. The overall system performance will depend, naturally, on the quality of the sighting and missile- guidance equipment. The armor piercing capability of the AT-6's hollow-charge warhead may be assumed to have in- creased to 750 mm compared to the AT-2s 500 mm. Click here to view image The electronics and choice of sensors are of prime significance in the performance of an attack helicopter. The most important are the sighting and target-tracking devices mounted in a pod under the right-hand side of the fuselage chin (looking in the direction of flight). There are good grounds for believing that these sensors include an optical sight switchable between two magnifications, a laser rangefinder, the missile-tracking system and a passive night-vision or thermal-imaging device. It is, of course, impossible to deduce with certainty, merely from the external shape of the pod which systems are in fact installed. The smaller, left-hand pod contains the missile- guidance transmitter and antenna. The pod on the HIND E is distinctly larger than that on the HIND D, indicating that the antenna on the HIND E is much bigger. This possibly conceals the real secret of the AT-6 weapon system, which may have certain similarities with current development work, underway on a command guidance system using millimetric wavelengths for the TOW missile. Like the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopter shown at the Paris air show, HIND navigation equipment includes the RSBN-6 short-range navigation system and is coupled with a Doppler radar and its associated map display, thereby ensuring sufficient accuracy for the distances likely to be flown by these helicopters. In addition, the helicopter is equipped with an SAU automatic flight-control system which permits the aircraft to be controlled directly from ground stations via signal input to the autopilot. The pilot is provided with a head-up display, which possibly has facilities for presenting data supplied by the Doppler radar, critical for low-level flight. One final point worth noting on the avionics suite is the fact that the HIND is fitted with a SIRENA threat warning system. As the reported performance records indicate, the HIND is particularly impressive in the higher-speed ranges. The following records have been set: -334.5 km/h over a 100 km circular course, -331 km/h over a 500 km circular course, -332.6 km/h over a 1,000 km circular course, -368.4 km/h over a 15-25 km straight-line course, -2 minutes 33.5 seconds to climb to 3,000 m altitude and 7 minutes 43 seconds to climb to 6,000 m altitude. The maximum speed of almost 370 km/h is especially noteworthy as is the high sustained speed of 332.6 km/h over a 1,000 km course. The Mi-24 HIND must be regarded as an extremely potent weapon system. Click here to view image CHAPTER FOUR Analysis It may be years before the true character of the war is widely known. Unclassified sources from the popular press tend to be impassioned and superficial. The more detailed classified sources, though objective and more precise, remain largely in the lands of intelligence agencies who are reluctant to share information. Still, it is possible to draw lessons and identify Soviet trends which will be useful in the event of a future conflict. The following items were selected as significant for the military planner vis a vis the air war in Afghanistan. Testing of Soviet weaponry The Soviets are learning new tactics and initiative Soviet dependence on chemical warfare The emergence of the helicopter and integration of air power with ground forces. Testing Weaponry After the casualty figures on both sides have been tabulated and the doctrinal justifications repeated for a seemingly infinite number of times, Afghanistan remains as a superb test-bed for an entirely new array of Soviet weapons. Soviet weapons there include the T-72 main battle tank, the BMP armored fighting vehicle and its variants, the BMD airborne fighting vehicle, and the small-unit weapons such as the AGS-17 "Plamya" (flame) automatic grenade launcher and the AK/AKS-74 5.45 mm assault rifle. Lesser-known weapons include the PFM-1 antipersonnel minelet, an air- dropped incendiary weapon, cluster bomb units, and the various types of chemical weapons discussed earlier. Soviet troops have introduced a number of new ordnance innovations, and have modified equipment to suit local conditions. They have, for example, mounted the AGS-17 grenade launcher on the BMP armored fighting vehicle - the marriage of two highly successful weapon systems. The employment of assault helicopters to drop antipersonnel mines and chemical bombs is also an innovation peculiar to Afghanistan. Decoy flares for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft made their first appearance in Afghanistan and are evidence of Soviet adaptability in the face of unanticipated condi- tions. The Su-25 is receiving the best of all possible operational evaluations - actual combat - and the develop- ment of Forward Arming and Refueling Points for helicopters will serve the Soviets well in future conflicts. Chemical agents are receiving a combat laboratory evaluation which would be impossible in peacetime. The war in Afghanistan has at least indirectly reinforced the need for greater strategic airlift capability for Soviet forces. This need is being addressed in the development of a Soviet heavy transport in the C-5 class timed for operational service in the late 1980s. The objective is to carry outsize loads such as the T-80 Tank and helicopters.1 The hardware which will benefit from improvements as a result of the war spans the entire spectrum of Soviet equipment. To realize the value of this testing, one need only recall the difficulties experienced by the United States in Vietnam with such weapons as the M-16, and F-111. The development of totally new technologies and weapons is also an important benefit of any conflict, and Afghanistan is no exception. Consider how long it may have taken the United States to develop and field sophisticated Electronic Counter Measures for aircraft had we not been exposed to the air defenses of North Vietnam. The Soviet Union will assuredly be a more capable force because of the war in Afghanistan. Tactics and Initiative The common perception of the Soviet Armed Forces is one of rigidity, inflexibility and rote execution of cookbook solutions. The evidence of Afghanistan does not affirm this view. Several months after the initial invasion of Afghanistan, Moscow's military planners recognized that their forces would have to adopt to the type of war being fought in that unforgivng theater. As early as March 1980, it was apparent that armored forces were generally useless against an enemy whose presence on the battlefield was sudden and fleeting. At first, Soviet ground forces were slow to react to the developing tactical situation and air power was used with little effect. Bitter experience soon established that tanks without infantry became sitting duck for rocket propelled grenades as the big vehicles inched up twisting mountain roads. On the ground, precious military intelligence, the lifeblood of a guerrilla war, was being squandered by 'prudent' young officers in the field who would automatically refer anything unusual -- a chance to ambush the rebels or catch them in the open -- up the line for formal approval. The troops understood what was happening. In letters to home (often taken unmailed from Soviet corpses by Resistance fighters) they complained about clinging to textbook tactics which kept them clustered around armored vehicles like targets when the shooting began. It wasn't long before the message began to sink in. Pressure for change took the shape of critical reports in military journals from soldiers who wrote that the rebels should be fought on their own terms -- with small squads, snipers, flame throwers and helicopterborne troops. In October 1980, Col. Gen. O Kulishev in an article under his own name declared that small, fast moving units led by sergeants and warrant officers who are trained for indepen- dence in decision making was the key to success. After this article by a General Officer, others voiced similar opinions. They wrote forcefully about the need for decen- tralizing command and control, the need for physical fitness among conscripts, and most of all for more and better training. In the Spring of 1980 when the Soviets realized they were in Afghanistan to stay, they committed to a thorough lesson learning and technotactical reformation. A major conference of senior officers in the Summer of 1980 addressed most of the problems mentioned above. In order to optimize their lesson learning effort in Afghanistan, the Soviets have established a sophisticated system that identified these lessons, studied and tested them, reached conclusions and recommendations and implemented them in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Gen. Arm Yazov is in charge of this system. In Spring 1981, the General chaired an extremely significant conference on the qualities and decision-making authority and flexibility of the junior commander. The conference included both theoretical papers and active demonstrations on training and firing ranges. Addressing the conference on the role of the junior leader in battle, Gen. Yazov explained: "In the accomplishment of all these tasks, an important role belongs to you, the commander of small subunits. You stand closest to the soldiers and direct their daily service and training. Remember, much depends on you in the further raising of combat readiness of subunits and units. . ."2 Since spring 1981, the influence of these solutions has been felt in Afghanistan. The combat laboratory is at work and at least one rebel leader has testified to the results. His camp, high in inaccessible hill country, was suddenly attacked by black uniformed commandos who swept in from the darkness to inflict severe casualties. Helicopterborne forces which penetrate deep into Resistance territory to surround rebel positions indicate an unprecedented degree of responsibility for the leaders on the spot. The combined arms battalion has become the base maneuver element in this war and tanks are now employed in conjunction with infantry forces. The Soviets now use helicopter-inserted detachments to recreate the old Indian Army tactic of 'cresting the heights' that overlook the route of a road convoy, snaking along a mountain valley. Because the Lee Enfield-armed Afghans can often hit at 800 meters or longer range while the Kalashnikov-armed motorized riflemen are ineffective beyond 300 meters, the Soviets have increased the number of trained snipers, armed with 7.62 mm SVD rifles and formed special sniper squads in motorized rifle companies.3 The Soviets make use of ZSU-23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns in the ground direct fire role in Afghanistan. A journalist reported that a platoon of four ZSU-23-4s supported an attack on a village in Ghazni province in September 1981. The lessons of 1980 also reveal the importance of the helicopter for this type of war. They led to the commitment of air assault brigades and units of Raydoviki (equivalent to U.S. Rangers) and Vysotniki (equivalent to U.S. Special Forces or British Special Air Service) to Afghanistan. It may have also led to the use of allied forces. East German advisors were brought in to rebuild the Kabul regime's internal security apparatus. At least a hundred Cubans were sent to Afghanistan, and the Afghan rebels have repeatedly claimed to have encountered them in battle. Vietnamese and South Yemenite advisors have also been reported to have been to Afghanistan to give the Soviets the benefit of their perceptions in guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare. More than 400,000 Russian troops have been rotated in and out of Afghanistan, among them thousands of junior officers and NCOs whose combat experience is now being shared with those bound for the fighting there. The value to the Kremlin of tactical lessons learned and most signifi- cantly -- the process of decentralizing and developing individual initiative -- are priceless benefits for an Army which has long been regarded as rigid, myopic and tactically inflexible. Chemical Warfare The use of offensive chemical warfare by the Soviets in Afghanistan has shown how important that tactic is to Soviet warfighting even in conventional modes of operation. It is impossible to document any changes or perceptions in Soviet chemical warfare tactics from the open Russian language literature, for the only Soviet references to the use of chemical weapons have been to accuse the West of anti-Soviet slander in being insensitive enough to bring up the issue and to accuse the Afghan guerrillas of using chemical weapons against the Soviet Army, exhibiting a captured American-made tear gas grenade to show the threat they faced. Yet from the evidence available, it appears beyond reasonable doubt that the Soviets and the Kabul regime have made extensive use of chemical weapons in the war in Afghanistan, and in ways that give insight into how the Soviets would use chemical weapons in any future conflict. Chemical weapons are a superb tool for economy-of-force operations. The Soviets never intended to occupy the hinterland of Afghanistan. Through use of chemical weapons, they supplement their cordon-and-sweep operations, destroying agriculture and forcing the inhabitants to flee. Refugees in Pakistan or in the cities of Afghanistan can be watched. They cannot support the guerrillas. In effect, the Soviet operations are similar to the resettlement efforts that took place in Malaya and Vietnam. The means by which this resettlement is carried out, however, is vastly different. In his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, General Phillip Sheridan realized what was required to prevent the 'breadbasket of the Confederacy' from supplying Lee's army. He gave orders that "a crow flying over the Shenandoah Valley will have to carry its own rations". Thereafter, nothing grew in the Shenandoah and Lee received no supplies. This comparison shows what the Soviets are aiming for in parts of Afghanistan. Chemical weapons are an excellent way to achieve this. The Soviets have also exported both the weapons and their emphasis on the use of them to their Kabul regime allies, who used Afghan flown and marked I1-28s to initiate chemical warfare during the summer of 1979, before the Soviet invasion. The Soviets and their allies use chemical weapons on a widespread basis but selectively. The use of a wide variety of chemical agents has given them a capability to respond to a specific tactical situation with the weapon that is most effective. For example, infiltration has been halted in the 'tip' of the Wakhan Corridor (the 'panhandle' of Afghanistan, where Afghanistan, the USSR, China and Pakistan meet) by making extensive use of persistent nerve agents. It requires little imagination to realize that the Soviets would use similar agents to interdict enemy movement in a future conflict. The Soviets have also used truck-delivered chemical weapons which are pumped into tunnel systems. This delivery method was used at least once during operations in Logar Province in September 1982, with deadly effect. Such tactics could be employed by the Soviets in fighting in built-up areas anywhere. The State Department reports that a Cuban has claimed that he was trained by the Soviets in this delivery technique, indicating that it is not limited to Afghanistan. However, the main Soviet chemical weapon delivery system continues to be aircraft, both helicopters and fixed wing. Tailored for specific tactical purposes, both support Soviet troops attacking guerrillas or civilians. The filter of the standard Soviet ShM gas mask has been modified to protect from mycotoxins, including the 'yellow rain' that is one of the foremost Soviet lethal, non-persistent agents in use in Afghanistan. The State Department has such a gas mask with traces of mycotoxins still in it, indicating operation in close coordination with chemical attacks.4 In an ambush in 1982 a combat group of the National Front for Islamic Revolution found Soviet casualties in their gas masks and protective suits, implying close coordination between chemical weapons and the ground forces. This has been confirmed by other Afghan sources.5 The evidence from Afghanistan is that chemical warfare is a vital and integral part of Soviet tactical and operational thinking. Their intent is to use it in situa- tions termed appropriate for 'weapons of mass destruction'. The inclusion of chemical weapons in this category may be seen as more indicative of Soviet propaganda than tactical thinking. In Afghanistan most of the non-persistent chemicals are used basically as an adjunct to conventional firepower. Persistent chemical weapons are used to block terrain. All this confirms pre-war theories on Soviet chemical warfare capabilities and tactics. The lesson of Soviet chemical warfare tactics in Afghanistan is that one should not expect to fight the Soviets or their surrogates without finding chemical weapons. The Marine Corps tends to view Soviet use of chemical agents as the exception in our training and war gaming. The evidence of Afghanistan makes it clear that chemical weaponry will be used from the very outset of hostilities. This insight into Soviet conventional war fighting doctrine warrants notice. The Helicopter and Air Power The prime lesson for the United States on the air to air activity over North Vietnam is the revival of maneuvering air combat. The changes which followed were thorough and included both aircraft and armament, spawning the development of the F-15, F-16 and F-18. No less an evolutionary process is now occurring in Soviet Air Forces as the result of the air war in Afghanistan. The maintenance conditions of existing attack aircraft do not fit the requirements of the present-day battlefield. "Since in today's battle, the situation changes rapidly, flight time from base to target is an important factor. The shorter this time, the more effective the strike."6 Contemporary attack planes require elaborate base facilities and thus cannot accompany the advancing troops. Within a short time, the period of flight to the battlefield grows alarmingly, which is actually the period that the data pilots have on the position of the ground forces and their requirements are not up-to-date. Lack of up-to-date data impose the need for visual identification of the target before strikes. The conditions of the modern battlefield make the previous attack planes too vulnerable while the supersonic fighter-bombers could not make use of their bombload or speed. A single sophisticated fighter-bomber that is shot down costs far more than the tanks it destroys in it's operational lifetime. High losses and relatively small results of attack aircraft made it clear that some thorough changes are inevitable. The helicopter has caused a reshaping of Soviet doctrine in the employment of air power which is reaching serious implication. The Soviet helicopter force now serves as the primary air asset of armies in accomplishing airmobile, air support, and anti-armor missions. It is also assuming greater importance in performing battlefield reconnaissance and airborne command and control. Air power in general has become a more integral part of Soviet fire attacks, being interwoven with artillery in all phases of the fire support plan. Helicopters have steadily increased their contribution to this type of air support. Soviet helicopters, particularly the HINDs, have become a major source of firepower. The Soviets recognize the great advantage of rotary-wing aircraft in being able to move forward at the same pace as ground columns, thereby affording Soviet divisions an uninterrupted source of air cover. Fixed-wing aircraft are still available to be called in for additional ground support near the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) and for strikes farther in the enemy rear. Because of their speed and range, helicopters they will remain a vital element in air support of ground operations. The integration of the helicopter into combined arms doctrine is a direct result of the Afghanistan war. In addition to the advantages of the helicopter mentioned above, the Soviets see the helicopter as the only air support which is capable of routinely operating in adverse weather and during hours of darkness. Brig. Gen. Ellis D. Parker, a U.S. Army staff officer for Plans and Operations, in an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology, said Soviet HIND and HIP helicopters offer a growing anti-armor and battlefield mobility which is challenging U.S. tech- nology and expertise. Parker indicated that recent Soviet military doctrine is incorporating helicopters as anti-tank weapons, basing the ratio between tank and helicopter losses as 19:1 in the helicopter's favor.7 Although not a factor in the Afghanistan war, the role of the helicopter as an air-to-air weapons platform is receiving as much effort in the Soviet Union as the develop- ment of anti-armor potential. Maj. Gen. Belov, a Soviet military author, wrote "How to Fight Helicopters" in Soviet Military Review, September 1979 in which he states "Just as tanks have always been the most effective weapon against tanks, helicopters are the most efficacious means of fighting helicopters. Use of helicopters by both warring sides will inevitably lead to clashes between them. Like tank battles of past wars, a future war between well equipped armies is bound to involve helicopter battles." The growing Soviet helicopter fleet make helicopter air-to-air combat as inevitable as the dogfights above the trenches of World War I. The degree of importance which the Soviets attach to this facet of combat can be seen in the newly developed Mi-28 helicopter. It is remarkably similar in appearance to the AH-64 Apache and incorporates many features which have previously been the exclusive province of air superiority fighters. Click here to view image The combat helicopter represents an evolutionary step in warfare as great as the appearance of the tank and machine gun on the battlefields of World War I. The Marine Corps is ill-equipped to deal with this new dimension in terms of equipment or training. The best anti-helicopter platform is another helicopter. The AH-1J/T is the Marine Corp's only attack helicopter and like all U.S. helicopters suffers from the lack of a viable weapon with which to engage airborne helicopters. The gun system has no method to provide aerial aiming solutions and tests with the AIM-9L Sidewinder, though encouraging, may prove impractical for fleetwide adoption. Efforts to adopt a variant of the Stinger surface-to-air missile for use by helicopters is underway. This development may provide a suitable anti- helicopter air-to-air capability and is most encouraging. Fixed wing aircraft, currently suffer from a weaponry deficiency in engaging helicopters. The gun is the most viable weapon, but aiming systems, including the F/A-18s Gun Director, are not optimized for the unique demands of fighter versus helicopter air combat. Air-to-air missiles are unfortunately prone to confusing the low flying target helicopter and the background over which it flies. The destruction of an aware helicopter opponent is not an easy task for the fixed wing pilot. It's also a task for which very little training is conducted. The nature of fixed wing versus helicopter and helicopter versus helicopter air combat requires that the training be conducted at very low altitudes where there is little margin for error. Safety considerations prevent the conduct of realistic training in this arena more than any other reason. The detection of low flying helicopters is also extraordinarily difficult for both aircraft and ground based systems. The helicopter is difficult to see unless highlighted by shadows while using nap-of-the-earth flight. The F-4 and the F/A-18 afford some measure of capability in detecting low flying helicopters with airborne radar, but Marine Corps ground based Hawk and Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC) radars are virtually blind to this threat. Ground-based defense against enemy helicopters in the Marine Corps consists of small arms and the Redeye/Stinger man portable missile systems. The appearance of decoy flares on Soviet helicopters make the lethality of the Redeye/Stinger questionable, however. In any case, with only one battery of missiles per Marine Aircraft Wing, one must question whether there are sufficient numbers to provide adequate protection even if lethality is high. Experience in Afghanistan suggests that the HIND, at least, is nearly impervious to small arms fire up to 12.7 mm. Development of the LAV air defense variant offers hope in this area. The location and interdiction of enemy helicopter assets with deep air strikes will, of necessity, have to become a priority task in achieving air superiority in future conflicts. The U.S. Army has recognized many of the problems associated with combatting the helicopter threat and is incorporating measures to address some of the problems mentioned above in it's Advanced Rotorcraft Technology Integration (ARTI) program.10 If the Marine Corps is to be effective in the presence of a helicopter equipped enemy, the following measures should be taken as soon as possible: 1. Develop and implement an intensive fixed wing versus helicopter air combat maneuvering training program. 2. Develop and implement an intensive helicopter versus helicopter air combat and evasive maneuvering training program. 3. Develop and field a new generation of air-to-air weapons for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters which are lethal against helicopters. 4. Develop or procure a reliable helicopter detection and identification system. 5. Develop or procure, in quantity, a mobile inte- grated (missile and gun) air defense weapons system to augment or replace the current Redeye/Stinger defenses. 6. Develop a Cobra follow-on which is equally capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. 7. Make location and interdiction of enemy helicopter assets an equal priority with the destruction of his fixed wing forces. Summary The air war in Afghanistan has provided us with a good look at Soviet war fighting methods and capabilities. This conflict illustrates several lessons which the Marine Corps should study. 1. The Soviets are learning and improving steadily. 2. Chemical weapons will be used from the outset. 3. The helicopter is a formidable weapon in Soviet hands. Editorially, it is ironic that the Soviet Union, which for decades specialized in helping guerrillas against an established government now finds itself embroiled in an insurgency not unlike those they have fostered the world over. They are using reprisals, terror and hideous atrocities to depopulate large areas, thus depriving the mujahidin of cover and support - to paraphrase Mao, draining the lake in which rebels can swim. There has been to date, only feeble international outery, compared with denunci- ations of milder U.S. actions in Vietnam. Despite the lack of a credible rebel air defense capability, the war has provided invaluable insights for improving the Red Army. For the Soviets, this is the right war at the right time. NOTES Notes to Foreword 1 "Afghanistan: A War Without End," Time, 10 January 1983, p. 29. Notes to Chapter One 1 Edward B. Espenshade Jr., Ed., Goode's World Atlas (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1964), p. 9. 2 John B. Ritch III; Hidden War: The First Struggle for Afghanistan, Staff Report for the Committee on Foreign Relations, United State Senate, 27 March 1984, p. 1. 3 Lord Saint Brides, "Afghanistan: The Empire Plays to Win," Orbis, Volume 24, Number 3, Fall 1980, p. 536. 4 Jonathan Kwitny, "Afghanistan: Crossroads of Conflict," The Atlantic, May 1980, pp. 24-31. 5 Ibid. 6 "Kabul Removes Political Slogans to Appease Moslems," The New York Times, 28 January 1979, p. 10. 7 Edgar O'Ballance, "Soviet Tactics in Afghanistan," Military Review, August 1980, pp. 45-52. 8 Kenneth Bacon, "Proving Ground," The Wall Street Journal, 24 April 1981. 9 Franz Friestetta, "The Battle in Afghanistan: A View from Europe," Strategic Review, Winter 1981. 10 Theodore Winkler, "The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan," National Defense Review, April 1980. 11 Jiri Valenta, "The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan," Crossroads, Spring 1980, p. 62. 12 Hugh Lucas, "Fuel Attacks Trigger Offensive," Janes Defense Weekly, 5 May 1984. 13 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Weekly, 7 July 1984. 14 John Hutcheson, "Scorched Earth Policy," Military Review, April 1982, p. 33. 15 "Afghanistan: Soviet Bomber Attacks," Congressional Record - Senate, 26 April 1984, p. 5 4875. 16 John Ritch, op. cit., p. 17. 17 Joseph Collins, "The Soviet-Afghan War: The First Four Years," Parameters, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 51. 18 John Ritch, op. cit. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 John Hutcheson, op. cit. 23 "The Horrors and Rewards of the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan," Washington Post, 13 Februay 1983. 24 Joseph Collins, op. cit. 25 David Isby, "Afghanistan 1982, The War Continues," International Defense Review, November 1982. 26 Joseph Collins, op. cit. 27 Ibid. 28 John Ritch, op. cit. 29 Joseph Collins, op. cit. Notes to Chapter Two 1 David C. Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983, p. 681. 2 Ibid. 3 Joseph Collins, "The Soviet-Afghan War: The First Four Years," Parameters, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 49. 4 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40. 5 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Weekly, 7 July 1984, p. 1105. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 "Industry Observer," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 5 March 1984, p. 11. 9 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 12 Defense Intelligence Agency, "Air Ground Coordination," Soviet Front Fire Support, September 1982, p. 63. 13 Ibid. 14 David C. Isby, "Afghanistan 1982, " International Defense Review, November 1982, p. 1562. 15 Ibid. 16 Bill Sweetman, "Frogfoot," Interavia, August 1983. 17 Yossef Bodansky, "Most Feared Aircraft in Afghanistan is Frogfoot," Janes Defense Weekly, 19 May 1984, p. 768. 18 Bill Sweetman, op. cit. 19 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40. 20 Ibid. 21 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 40. 22 Ibid. 23 "Soviet Intelligence," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 9, 1983 p. 809. 24 Yossef Bodansky, "Soviets Use Afghanistan to Test Liquid Fire," Janes Defense Weekly, 26 May 1984. 25 Yossef Bodansky, "Soviets Testing Chemical Agents in Afghanistan,", Janes Defense Weekly, 7 April 1984. 26 Yossef Bodansky, op. cit. 27 Yossef Bodansky, op. cit. 28 V. D. Sokolovski, Soviet Military Strategy (translated by Harriet Post Scott), 1978, pp 68-69. Notes to Chapter Three 1 Polkovnik B. Federov, "New Ground Suport Aircraft," Znamenosets, December 1978. 2 G. Turbiville, "The Attack Helicopter's Growing Role in Russian Combat Doctrine," Army, December 1977, p. 32. 3 Col. Gen. Sharikov, "Combat Wings for the Motherland," Izvestiya, 19 August 1978, pp. 1-2. 4 "Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Weekly, 7 July 1984, p. 105. 5 Ibid. 6 "Helicopter Command Post," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3, No. 6, 1982, p. 559; "Soviet Intelligence," Janes Defense Weekly, 21 July 1984, p. 64. 7 David Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983, p. 683. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Erhard Semadeni, "Mountain Warfare in the European Alps," a report for the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich Switzerland, 1981. 12 "AGS-17 on Helicopters," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3, No. 6, 1982, p. 559. 13 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 43. 14 L. N. Donnelly, "The Soviet Helicopter on the Battlefield," International Defense Review, May 1984, p. 561. 15 David Isby, op. cit. 16 Yossef Bodansky, "Most Feared Aircraft in Afghanistan is Frogfoot," Janes Defense Weekly, 19 May 1984, p. 768. 17 James Hansen, "Afghanistan: The Soviet Experience," National Defense, January 1982, p. 24. 18 Erhard Semodeni, op. cit., p. 79. 19 Edger O'Ballance, "Soviet Tactics in Afghanistan," Military Review, August 1983, p. 49. 20 "Air Assault Brigades," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1982, p. 6. 21 "Helicopter Minelaying," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1982, p. 7. 22 C. N. Donnelly, op. cit., p. 560. 23 David Isby, op. cit. 24 "Su-24s, Tu-16s Support Soviet Ground Forces," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 29 October 1984, p. 42. 25 Ibid. 26 Nikolaai Cherikov, "The Soviet Mi-24 HIND Attack Helicopter," International Defense Review, September 1981; Col. E. J. Everett Heath, "The Development of Helicopter Air to Ground Weapons," International Defense Review, March 1983. Notes to Chapter Four 1 "Soviets Stress Heavy-Lift Transport," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6 June 1983, p. 46. 2 Gen. Col. Yazov, " Activity in Battle," Znamenosets, No. 6, June 1981. 3 David Isby, "Soviet Tactics in the War in Afghanistan," Janes Defense Review, Vol. 4, No. 7, 1983, p 687. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Polkovnik Federor, "New Ground Support Aircraft," Znamenosets, December 1978. 7 "Soviets Stress Helicopters in Anti Armor Role," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 16 January 1984, p. 92. 8 Nikolai Cherikov, "The Soviet Mi-28 Combat Helicopter," International Defense Review, October 1984. 9 Ibid. 10 "Military Seeking Upgraded Capabilities," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 16 January 1984, p. 84. BIBLIOGRAPHY "Afghanistan." The New Columbia Encyclopedia. 1975 "Afghanistan: "Soviet Bomber Attacks." Congressional Record - Senate, 26 April 1984, p. 5 4875. 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