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weapons: ah-64 apache


apache The AH-64A Apache is specifically designed for the attack role. The Army first took delivery in 1984.

Its Hellfire anti-tank missiles have a range of more than 3.7 miles and can penetrate the armor of any known main battle tank. The Apache may also be armed with 2.75 inch folding-fin aerial rockets carried on two stub fins that provide additional lift and may serve as attaching points for external fuel tanks.

hard to kill

The Apache was designed to be crashworthy. Armor made of boron carbide bonded to Kevlar protects the Apache crew and the helicopter's vital systems. Blast shields, which protect against 23mm rounds or smaller high-explosive incendiary ammunition, separate the pilot and copilot/weapons system operator; thus, both crew members cannot be incapacitated by a single round. Armored seats and airframe armor can withstand .50 caliber rounds.

The aircraft is 48 feet long, 12 feet high and can weigh 21,000 pounds maximum at take-off. Top speed is 184 miles per hour, range is 300 miles and service ceiling is 21,000 feet.

---From: Gulf War - A Comprehensive Guide to People, Places & Weapons by Col. Walter J. Boyne, U.S. A.F. (RET) Signet, 1991


In the weeks and months before the war, the Apache's Bravo Company had developed new tactics that they hoped to use against Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. The Apache helicopter was a ground-attack aircraft; tanks and fighting vehicles were its principal targets. The tactics developed by Bravo Company pilots were considerably different from the ones they had practiced in Europe. There the Apache pilots had been trained to fly low, using hills for cover, and popping up to fire. In the desert there were few hills high enough for the Apaches to hide behind. To compensate, Bravo Company had devised what they called high-energy and low-energy tactics. In both approaches the pilots lined up their six helicopters shoulder to shoulder, in three teams of two. In low-energy tactics, the two helicopters in a team would fly 300 to 500 meters apart; there would be an 800-to 1,000 meter spread between teams. The helicopers flew just 30 feet off the ground, creeping forward just fast enough to leave the dust from their rotor wash behind them. It was not foolproof, but in the relative flatness of the desert terrain, the tactic gave the Apache pilots as much of a chance to pull off a surprise attack as they could reasonably hope for.

Low-energy tactics were for nighttime, when they were nearly invisible. The high-energy tactics were for daytime use, when they would want to move faster. They called for the two-Apache teams to spread out with about 1 1/2 kilometers between them. Then they would circle and fly in at the target at speeds of 40 miles an hour. The idea was to get close, shoot, and get away fast.

Laser guided the Hellfire anti-tank missiles. The Apaches' 30-mm gun was also laser-directed. The laser accounted for the speed of the aircraft, the wind, and the aircraft's movement for seven seconds prior to firing. Attached to the pilot's helmet was a two-inch-square semi-transparent monocle that extended about an inch or two in front of the pilot's right eye. Projected onto the monocle was the targeting information that came from the Apache's infrared targeting systems. There was also a cross hair-type targeting device. All of the Apache's weapons systems were linked electronically to the monocle. All a weapons officer had to do was look at a target, lay the cross hairs on it, and fire his weapon of choice.

From: U.S. News & World Report Triumph Without Victory The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War, Times Books, 1992.

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