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Helicopters - Air-to-Air

The first helicopter air-to-air kill is history. In 1972, a North Vietnamese AN-2 trying to bomb a place in Laos was intercepted and shot down by an Air American UH-1 Huey. Since little helicopter air to air combat has actually occurred and the potential is definitely possible, this is an important but completely embryonic area of warfare.

The US Marine's did some air-to-air work and certainly found out that the best thing against a helicopter was another helicopter. It's very hard for a fixed-wing to shoot down a helicopter, particularly if he is armed with missiles. He gets about one pass on you; and if he doesn't get you on the first one, he's in trouble. The helicopter can turn inside him, and there are ways to avoid high-performance fixed-wing aircraft. the maneuverability to get down low on the ground. The helicopter can make the fighter pilot very nervous if it launched a missile at them. Probably the best thing to take on another helicopter is a helicopter.

Army MG Story C. Stevens stated in June 1985 that "Anybody that's studied history at all has got to understand that helicopters are going to be fighting helicopters. But, because it wasn't shown as an official threat, no one would put it as a requirement. We couldn't get a requirement out of TRADOC even though, at an aviation review I attended, the four-star generals were telling the guys, "Hey, you've got to look at this." Nothing really came out of the TRADOC. It was very, very slow in coming. We did everything we could to pull for it but without money, and without program approval, you couldn't spend much money in those areas."

Intuitively, from all ever written associated with air-to-air combat, it's usually the pilot that has the speed and maneuverability that has the advantage. Nobody's arguing maneuverability; pilots need the maneuverability. But the experiments they've done showed there really wasn't a need for speed because once engaged, it's more of a cat-fight and a lot of maneuvering, without high speed. With speed, there is an opportunity of picking the point of engagement, which might be important. A pilot might be able to set up an ambush more readily. If the pilot had to run, then he can get away and maybe live to fight another day.

It appeared that the greatest threat to transport (essentially unarmed) helicopters is the HIND. The HIND is much more mobile and maneuverable than the ZUS-23 and other high threat weapons. The HIND will not necessarily stay close to the FEBA or main enemy positions. Unlike fixed wing aircraft the HIND lives in the helicopter flight environment and can maintain firing parameters on other helicopters for much longer periods of time than the fixed wing.

If pilots have basically equal experience they both shoot each other down 40 percent of the time on the first pass. If the HIND is given a gun with a higher rate of fire, higher velocity, and a better sighting system (which is the true case with the HIND), the outcome changes. Even if the COBRA has a better pilot the HIND can engage the fight outside the COBRA range and usually win, The HIND simply has the COBRA "outgunned," If the HIND has an air to air missile the situation becomes much worse.

By the late 1980s, the growing threat to traditional Army helicopter missions — aerial fire support and combat assault — from a new generation of Soviet helicopters specifically designed for air-to-air combat was forcing Army aviation to enter the counter-air mission area. The Army believed the best way to counter these helicopters designed specifically for air-to-air combat is with another helicopter. Army aviators developing helicopter air-to-air doctrine and employment tactics at the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, believed that fixed-wing fighters were only marginally competitive against an air-to-air helicopter.

It seemed that the Office of the Secretary of Defense agreed with this assessment, having directed the Army to fund an air-to-air capability for ground-attack helicopters in its fiscal year 1990 Program Objective Memorandum. Those Army assets must now delay their primary role of "tank-busting” and concentrate on the defensive counter-air mission (until now an Air Force mission) in order to gain the air superiority they need before they can kill tanks.

In the United States, it was decided to adapt the Bell OH-58 Kiowa and Hughes OH-6 Cayuse light and maneuverable reconnaissance helicopters for air combat (the final version of the series is the Boeing AH-6 helicopter). The machines received FIM-92 Stinger ATAS homing missiles with a thermal homing head on their pylons.

ATAS (Air-to-Air Stinger) is a short-range air-to-air missile developed by General Dynamics in collaboration with McDonnell Douglas Helicopter specifically for arming light reconnaissance helicopters, aircraft and reconnaissance-strike UAVs. Also, these helicopters can have small arms and cannons, which are located in special containers, i.e. motionless.

Paradoxically, the main American attack helicopter AH-64D Apache Longbow does not have air-to-air missiles in its armament and will be forced to use Hellfire ATGMs (which is very difficult) and a 30-mm cannon on a bow movable turret.

But the US Marine Corps helicopters Bell AH-1J Sea Cobra and AH-1W Super Cobra are armed with air-to-air missiles. Two old but well-established AIM-9L Sidewinder can be hung on the pylons of “Supercobra”. The Americans did not forget the Black Hawk, the UH-60 Black Hawk is armed with FIM-92 Stinger missiles.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:55:21 ZULU