AH-1W Air Combat Maneuver Training -- Why It Must Be Reinstated CSC 1992 SUBJECT AREA Aviation WHY IT MUST BE REINSTATED Major R. M. BRADY CG# 9 6 April, 1992 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Titie: AH-1W Air Combat Maneuver Training -- Why It Must Be Reinstated Author: Major R. M. Brady, USMC Thesis: In order for an HMLA squadron to be capable of accomplishing its three doctrinal anti-air warfare (AAW) mission, AH-1W air combat maneuver (ACM) training must be reinstated. Background: Since I987, AH-1W ACM training has been prohibited due to a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) flight restriction. As of this date, there is no definitive solution or timeframe for reinstating this essential training. In accordance with Marine Corps doctrine, an HMLA squadron has three attack helicopter AAW missions. In order for the AH-1W to be an effective AAW weapon platform, it must be flown by pilots that are knowledgeable and "proficient" in ACM (to include air-to-air weapon employment). Proficiency in ACM can only be achieved through dynamic and realistic flight training. Because of the current AH-1W ACM flight restriction, AH-1W pilots are unable to gain or maintain ACM proficiency. Recommendation: The importance of "realistic" ACM training must be reemphasized within the Marine Corps and NAVAIR. A realistic and expeditious solution for reinstating AH-1W ACM training must be found if an HMLA squadron is to be considered capable of accomplishing its assigned AAW missions. AH-1W AIR COMBAT MANEUVER TRAINING -- WHY IT MUST BE REINSTATED OUTLINE Thesis statement: In order for an HMLA squadron to be capable of accomplishing its three doctrinal anti-aid warfare (AAW) missions, air combat maneuver (ACM) training must be reinstated for the AH-1W. I. The AH-1W ACM problem A. Doctrinal AH-1 AAW missions B.ACM proficiency requirement C. Current ACM training restriction II. The importance of solving the ACM problem A. The Threat B. History of AH-1 ACM training C. NAVAIR ACM restriction D. Importance of realistic ACM training III. Solving the AH-1W ACM problem A. Priority in the Marine Corps B. Further NAVAIR testing C.Marine Corps/NAVAIR compromises AH-1W AIR COMBAT MANEUVER TRAINING -- WHY IT MUST BE REINSTATED FMFRP 1-11(Fleet Marine Force Organization 1990) lists 11 mission tasks assigned to the AH-1's of a Marine Light/Attack Helicopter (HMLA) squadron. of these 11 tasks, two of them specifically require the AH-1 to conduct anti-air warfare (AAW). The first of these tasks is to "conduct anti-helicopter operations." The second is to "conduct point and limited area air defense from threat fixed wing aircraft." Additionally, another listed task contains an implied AAW mission in that "conduct armed escort for assault support operations" inherently includes protecting transport helicopters from attacking enemy aircraft, both fixed wing and helicopters. Doctrinally, it is clear that the USMC AH-1 has an AAW mission. (5:5-35) In order to be an effective AAW platform, the AH-1 must be flown by aircrew that are knowledgeable and proficient in air combat maneuvers (ACM). Sadly, this is no longer the case in the Marine Corps. The AH-1W is presently restricted from flying ACM and consequently, air-to-air weaponry and tactics receive limited emphasis in AH-1 pilot training. The problem of perishing ACM proficiency within the AH-1 community began in late 1987. It was generated by a controversial ACM restriction placed on the AH-1W by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). This restriction still exists today with no definitive solution for lifting it anytime in the near future. This is indeed a very serious problem. If AH-1 pilots cannot become and stay proficient in ACM, then an HMLA squadron cannot be expected to sucessfully accomplish the three AAW missions assigned to it by Marine Corps doctrine. So, what's the solution to this problem? Obviously, the final solution must include a full lifting of this AH-1W ACM flight restriction. In order to achieve this, there must be a renewed emphasis within the Marine Corps and NAVAIR on the importance of conducting realistic ACM training within the AH-1 community. There must also be renewed emphasis on the importance of finding a solution to this ACM restriction problem "now". To better understand the importance of solving this ACM restriction problem, it needs to be examined from five distinct aspects. The first is the threat that drives the requirement for ACM skill and proficiency. The second is the historical development of AH-1 ACM training and AH-1 AAW missions within the Marine Corps. The third is the basis of the NAVAIR AH-1W ACM restriction, as well as the opposing arguments against it. The fourth is the importance of conducting realistic ACM flight training. The fifth and final aspect is the possible solution itself--what can and should be done now. THE THREAT The past 15 years have proven that air combat involving helicopters can and will occur in most conflicts where the opposing forces possess combat aircraft. Historical examples provide good insight into future scenarios in which helicopter air combat can be expected to occur. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War witnessed numerous helicopter air combat engagements. During this war, Iranian AH-1J' s engaged Iraqi MI-8 Hip and MI-24 Hind helicopters. Unclassified sources report that the Iranian AH-1 pilots achieved a 10:1 kill ratio over the Iraqi helicopter pilots during these engagements (1:5) Additionally, Iranian AH-1 and Iraqi fixed wing aircraft engagements also occurred. The 1982 Falklands War between Britain and Argentina brought helicopter air combat into the history of amphibious assault operations. Air combat between helicopters and fixed wing aircraft occurred on both sides. British Sea King and Westland helicopters were attacked by Argentine A-4 skyhawks. At least one Westland Scout was shot down during these engagements.(3:I) Conversely, British AV-8 Sea Harriers attacked and shot down numerous Argentine helicopters.(I :3) As a result of these engagements, the British subsequently placed a much increased emphasis on helicopter ACM training (1:3) Israel's 1982 "Peace for Galilee" campaign is another historical example of the threat that fixed wing fighter or attack aircraft pose to helicopters. During this intense air war campaign, Israeli fighters shot down Syrian helicopters with impunity. The past I5 years have also seen a worldwide proliferation of attack helicopters and lethal anti-helicopter weapon systems. The ex-Soviet Union produced and exported hundreds of heavily armed MI-24 attack helicopters as well as the very heavily armed MI-8 transport helicopter. The most recent Soviet helicopter development was the Hokum -- an aircraft "specifically" designed to combat other helicopters. Attack helicopters including U.S. made models, are commonplace among many Third NorId and non-NATO aligned nations. North Korea possesses the Hughes MD-500, Iran possesses the Bell AH-1J. Additionally, European attack helicopters are commonplace throughout the globe. A wide variety of ground weapon systems have been adapted for use as air-to-air weapons on attack helicopters. Most of these are particularly effective against other helicopters. A prime example is the evolvement of the anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) into a deadly anti-helicopter weapon system. Another example is the adaptation to helicopters of the surface man-portable air defense missile. This type of missile provides a "fire and forget" infrared homing weapon which is lethal against slow moving helicopters. Helicopter air combat can be expected to occur throughout the entire spectrum of conflict -- low intensity (LIC), mid intensity (MIC), and high intensity (HIC). Given the proliferation of attack helicopters and air-to-air anti-helicopter weapon systems, helicopter ACM is not just a HIC scenario. It can occur in any level of conflict in which the opponents possess combat aircraft capable of functioning as an air-to-air weapon platform. The almost complete absence of helicopter ACM engagements during Desert Storm must "not" be used as an indication of future trends. Desert Storm was very unique in that the Allies had "complete" air supremacy and there were incredibly few Iraqi sorties flown, either by fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF USMC AH-1 ACM TRAINING AND AAW MISSIONS In the late 1970's, the Marine Corps recognized the probability of helicopters becoming engaged in air combat during future conflicts. The result was a doctrinal evolution of helicopter ACM developed by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1). MAWTS-1 pioneered the development of relatively advanced tactics for helicopter ACM in the Marine Corps and other U.S. armed services. The basic fundamental for the development of helicopter ACM is summarized well in the MAWTS-1 Helicopter ACM Guide introduction: Over the past twenty years, the proliferation of lethal anti-helicopter weapons on the modern battlefield has forced a revolutionary change in the Marine Corps approach to conducting the traditional heliborne assault. Threat aerial plat- forms (both fixed wing and helicopter), designed specifically to counter our airborne mobility, present us with a particularly difficult tactical problem. In order to survive and operate effectively in the face of these persistent airborne threats, all Marine helicopter aircrew must be familiar with the modern concepts of air combat maneuvering. Doctrinally tasked with the mission of aerial escort for transport helicopters, AAW and ACM mission capability for the AH-1 subsequently received increased emphasis. A direct result of this increased emphasis was the introduction of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the AH-1 in the early 1980's. With the introduction of the AIM-9 on the AH-1, the Marine Corps became the first U.S. armed service to field a "dedicated" air-to-air capability on a helicopter in the form of a combat proven, reliable, and lethal infrared guided missile. To this day, no other service is capable of employing the AIM-9 on a helicopter. Missions assigned to the AH-1 continued to develop into tasks which included active AAW. The decision to employ the AH-1 as an air-to-air intercept platform for emergency defense of the amphibious task force (EDATF) first arose during 1983 Marine Amphibious Readiness Group (MARG) operations off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon. Faced with the possibility of a significant terrorist threat involving the suicide delivery of airborne explosives from light civil aircraft, the MARG employed AH-1's on a ready-alert status as an EDATF asset. (4:iii) Four years later, Marine AH-1's were again tasked with the mission of EDATF during contingency operations in the Persian Gulf. Utilization of the AH-1 as a visual combat air patrol (VISCAP) platform against both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters subsequently evolved into Marine Corps doctrine. AH-1 ACM training continued to receive increased emphasis within the Marine Corps. In 1987, the AH-1W Training and Readiness (T&R) Manual expanded the ACM flight training syllabus. Additionally, the AH-1 Tactical Manual (NWP 55-3) was updated to include detailed information on the tactics for employment of the AIM-9. AH-I ACM capability was further improved with the introduction of the "W" series AH-1. The AH-1W features a "Head-Up Display" (HUD) which allows the pilot to uncage the seeker head of an AIM-9 missile prior to launch. Uncaging the missile seeker head greatly improves the ability to tactically employ an AIM-9. Uncaging the seeker head was not previously possible on the older "J" and "T" series AH-1's. THE NAVAIR AH-1W ACM RESTRICTION AND THE OPPOSING ARGUMENTS AGAINST IT In late 1987, AH-1W ACM training in the Marine Corps came to a halt. NAVAIR officially restricted AH-1W ACM flight for engineering reasons. The restriction was based on results from ACM flight load survey testing conducted at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). The reason for the restriction is not that the AH-1W is structurally unsafe for ACM flight during non-FMF. In fact, the AH-1W has been cleared for ACM flight during non-FMF research and testing projects. What the restriction revolves around is the extra stress loads ACM flight places on various aircraft dynamic components. NAVAIR engineers "theorize" that the extra stress will significantly reduce the service life limit (measured in flight hours) of certain key components. Many of these components are in short supply and the reduced service life (and subsequent early replacement) would be cost prohibitive. As stated earlier, this ACM restriction has generated tremendous and bitter controversy within the Marine Corps, particularly within the AH-1 community. AH-1 pilots are understandably upset, and many challenge the validity of this NAVAIR restriction. Their reasoning against this restriction is diverse, but it generally falls within one of three major opposing arguments. The first argument is that ACM flight exceeds "none" of the flight limits that are approved for all the other types of AH-1W training. The Naval Aviation Operational Performance Standards (NATOPS) Manual for the AH-1W delineate "one" set of flight limitations (angle of bank, airspeed, "G" limit, etc.) (7:I-4-7/8) There are no exceptions (extra or reduced limitations) for the various types of mission training. The AH-1W NATOPS limits are the same for "any" type of flight, be it instrument, familiarization, ordnance delivery, or ACM. In essence then, a pilot can legally fly an AH-1W at any or all of its maximum NATOPS flight limits for extended periods of time during any non-ACM flight. As soon as the flight is designated as "ACM" however, it is no longer authorized. Why then, pilots argue, is it perfectly allowable to aggressively fly the AH-1W to its NATOPS limits "without restriction" on any non- ACM flight, but it's not allowable to do the same for an ACM flIght? Maneuvers terminating in higher aircraft loads than those experienced during ACM flight can "and do" occur on other types of flights such as tactical ordnance delivery and post maintenance check flights. The second argument is that the results of the AH-1W ACM flight load testing were very limited and not extensive enough to justify the NAVAIR restriction. The NATC flight load survey itself concluded that "within the scope of the survey, the static strength of the AH-1W is satisfactory for the air-to-air mission. The impact of component fatigue life is still being assessed." (2:2) This leads to the heart of the argument itself. NAVAIR's restriction is based on a "theoretical" impact of ACM stress loads on component service life. No long term quantitative data has been compiled to support this theory. (2:2) It is based on short term testing done at NATC, and not on a wide spectrum of flight data and component inspections compiled from operational flights throughout the Marine Corps The third argument examines the question of how many times high stress loads are actually placed on an AH-1W during an ACM flight. This argument peaked in emotion in 1990 when temporary authorization was granted to conduct ACM with four AH-1W's in support of a classified project. The NAVAIR authorization for these aircraft stipulated that for every one hour of ACM flight conducted, many components would be exponentially penalized in hourly component life. From the Marine Corps perspective, this was totally unrealistic. Subsequently, the argument grew over how much time during an ACM flight an aircraft is actually flown at or close to the NATOPS maneuver limits. The Marine Corps contends that very little time of an ACM flight is actually spent in an engagement. Furthermore, an even less amount of this engagement time is spent in a regime that approaches severity and reaches the NATOPS limits. ACM flight data collected during the 1990 classifIed project confirmed this contention. (2:1) MAWTS-1's AH-1 Division summarizes this issue as follows: Flight time associated with AH-1W ACM sorties is 1.5 hours per evolution. There are five ACM sorties in the current T&R Volume III. Of that I.5 hours per sortie, an average of 8-12 minutes of actual engage- ment time occurs (if you start the time at the "fight's on" call and stop it at-the "terminate call.") All of that 8-12 minutes does not necessarily mean the aircraft is maneuvering at the maximum NATOPS limits. Pre-merge tactical maneuvering is no more severe than normal formation flying. Only at the merge does the severity of the maneuvers approach the NATOPS limits for the aircraft. As the merge is transited, maneuver severity is again reduced. The bottom line is that the actual maneuvering to the NATOPS limits is further reduced from 8-12 minutes per 1.5 hour sortie to a realistic 3-5 minutes. (2:1) THE IMPORTANCE OF REALISTIC ACM TRAINING Realistic AH-1 ACM training is extremely important regardless of the conflict intensity level that the Marine Corps may be associated with. Helicopter aerial engagements will often be lethal. The relatively low speed of helicopters makes disengagement from air combat virtually impossible unless a mutual desire for disengagement is present among all the combatants. (6:7-28) For helicopter aircrew engaged in aerial combat, " it doesn't matter what the strategic classification of the conflict is; the perspective is one of all-out war." (I: 2) Success in ACM engagement against a formidable enemy will require AH-1 aircrew to possess an exceptional understanding of aircraft capabilities add limitations within a "maneuvering" environment. (6:7-7) Additionally, the aircrew must be knowledgeable and proficient in employing the AH-1's air-to-air weapons within this dynamic, maneuvering environment. Finally, the aircrew must remain aware of developing events during an ACM engagement, otherwise known as "situational awareness". Mastery of this complex situation (maneuver, weapon employment, and situational awareness) can only be attained through realistic and intense ACM training. (6:7-56) The ability to successfully maneuver an aircraft in an intense, dynamic environment is the basic building block of ACM training. A goal of realistic ACM training is to teach a pilot how to maximize the AH-1's performance by maintaining "energy" and maintaining balanced flight. Balanced fIight is a basic consideration during all flight profiles, but it is especially important during ACM flight when bank angles and "G" loads approach and reach the NATOPS limits. It is unrealistic to assume that a pilot with little or no ACM training can fly and competently maneuver the AH-1 to its fullest potential during an actual ACM engagement. Weapon system employment in an air-to-air situation takes on an entirely different perspective from that during an air-to-ground scenario. Air-to-air weapon employment is often more difficult and complex than air-to-ground weapon employment. Each air-to-air weapon system possesses unique requirements for successful employment: effective range, kinematic range, acquisition range, shooter-to-target aspect, lead computation, etc. (6:7-56) In order to maximize the effectiveness of air-to-air weapons, all of the requirements specific to a weapon system must normally be satisfied simultaneously. Trying to satisfy these requirements in the dynamic, maneuvering environment of ACM can be extremely difficult, even for ACM proficient pilots. Air-to-air weaponry proficiency can only be achieved through realistic ACM training. The attainment of situational awareness is perhaps the most important gain of realistic ACM training. "A pilot who does not possess situational awareness in an ACM environment is a liability to mission accomplishment, aircrew coordination, and mutual suppot." (6:7-56) ACM training inherently focuses on improving situational awareness. An AH-1 pilot with well developed need to fly the aircraft with "aerial violence" in an ACM survival situation. Violent maneuvers with an AH-1 airframe can result in mast-bumping, overstress, overtorque, high sink rates, and an out- of-control flight condition. In other words, the enemy achieves a "kill" without actually shooting sown his adversary. The following is a MAWTS-1 AH-1 Division summary concerning the importance of realistic ACM training in relation to improving situational awareness: Air combat meneuver training is absolutely essential in order to elevate aircrew overall situational awareness which is essential for survival on the battlefield. ACM training evolutions provide the "only training in which a pilot actually faces a dynamic adversary". As such, evaluation of a pilot's situational awareness capacity can be accomplished prior to actual combat operations. Aircrew learn respect for their aircraft by flying within the limitations set forth in NATOP while countering the adversary. "Fighting smart" becomes evident. By learning how to control an aircraft (physically and through aircrew coordination) or a section of aircraft in a highly fluid and taxing environment, the aircrew enhance their chances for survival and mission accomplishment in battle against airborne and ground-based threats. Additionally, the chance of giving the adversary a "cheap kill" by losing situational awareness is reduced as proficiency in ACM increases. Elevated situational awareness is not directly associated with high flight time. Regardless of time in model, those individuals void of previous ACM training have lower levels of situational awareness than those who have recent ACM experience. Realistic training must occur for an aircrew to develop a tactical decision matrix. ( 2:2) THE SOLUTION As one can easily deduce, there is no simple and easy soIution for solvIng the problem of the NAVAIR AH-1W ACM restriction. However, it is not unreasonable to suggest that it "can" be solved, "realistically" and "expeditiously," if both opposing sides (NAVAIR and the Marine Corps) consciously recognize the importance of AH-1W ACM training. The first step in solving this problem begins with the Marine Corps itself. The highest levels of leadership in both the FMF and HQMC must make lifting the AH-1W ACM restriction a "priority." If this doesn't happen, the problem is not going to get solved, realistically or expeditiously. The ACM restriction is not just an AH-1 community problem, it is a "Marine Corps" problem. The AH-1 is doctrinally tasked with conducting three AAW missions. If the AH-1 community cannot conduct realistic ACM traInIng, then it can not be expected to successfully accomplish these missions, "period." Although there were no Marine helicopter ACM engagements in Desert Storm, it does not mean there will not be any in future conflicts. Had Marine helicopter ACM occurred in Desert Storm, and had Marine helicopters been shot down by Iraqi aircraft, the AH-1W ACM problem would probably be well on its way to being solved. The second step in the solution is straightforward. NAVAIR must "expeditiously" conduct more extensive and "realistic" testing with which to validate the "actual" effects of ACM flight on the AH-IW. The testing must include flights flown in strict compliance with the T&R syllabus and the MAWTS-1 ACM Guide. Effects of stress loads on components must be verified by inspection, and not just be based on theory. Any compromise reached between NAVAIR and the Marine Corps on penalizing component service life due to ACM "must" be based on the actual time an aircraft is flown at the NATOPS limits. The final solution will undoubtedly involve compromises from both sides. However, there is one issue that the Marine Corps must "never" compromise on, and that is the issue of ACM flight parameters remaining the same as the normal NATOPS limits. ACM training will never be realistic if it cannot be conducted to the full extent of the NATOPS parameters when necessary. Any restrictions imposed other than those in NATOPS will truly be self-defeating. ACM is a survival skill, and pilots must know how to get the most out-of their aircraft within its prescribed capabilities. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1."Examination of the Significance of Continuing Helicopter Air Combat-Maneuvering (ACM) Training." Information Paper: MAWTS-1. 2. "Items of Concern to AH-1W Division Concerning ACM Waiver." Information Paper: MAWTS-1 3. Mahaffey, Mark, Captain, USMC. "Air to Air Gunnery for the AH-1." MAWTS-1, 1986 4.Mahaffey,Mark, Major, USMC, and P.J. Gough, Major, USMC. "Attack Helicopter Intercept Procedure/Capabilities. MAWTS- 1, 1989 5.U.S.Marine Corps. Marine Corps Combat Development Command. "Fleet Marine Force Organization 1990," FMFRP 1-11. Quantico, 1990 6.U.S. Navy. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. "AH-1 Tactical Manual", NWP 55-3-AH1 (Vol I). Washington D.C., 1989 7.U.S.Navy. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. "NATOPS Flight Manual, AH-1W Helicopter," NAVAIR 01-H1AAC-1. Washington D.C., 1990.
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