It's Funny the Stuff You Can Find...
Chop the Chopper
The Army's Apache attack-helicopter had a bad war.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2003, at 6:42 PM ET
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is gearing up for his next war—not with the Syrians or the North Koreans but with the hidebound generals of the U.S. Army. These are the generals who criticized Rumsfeld's battle plan while Gulf War II was still raging and who beat back his efforts, over the past few years, to "transform" the Army into a lighter, lither fighting force. With Rumsfeld's star rising and the generals' tarnished, he can be expected to mount a new offensive on their bureaucratic turf at the first opportunity.
He might want to start by junking the Army's attack helicopter. The current version, the AH-64D Apache Longbow, is in many ways a vast improvement over earlier models, but it is still too dangerous to the pilots who fly it and not dangerous enough to the enemy it's designed to attack.
Nice start. Of course this was written in 2003, so he couldn't have asked the people on the ground the Apache supported from then till today, and heard them say what they've told me personally several times from different people and different units, the one thing that scares the bad guys more than anything is an Apache. Once again this isn't me saying this this is ground guys whom I spoken to for different units over time. Of course you'll have to take my word for it, because this is the INTERNET, I don't have sworn statements, recordings or anything else to back up what I just wrote...so I could be full of it.
He goes on to say...
The U.S. Army's only disastrous operation in Gulf War II (at least the only one we know about) took place on March 24, when 33 Apache helicopters were ordered to move out ahead of the 3rd Infantry Division and to attack an Iraqi Republican Guard regiment in the suburbs of Karbala. Meeting heavy fire from small arms and shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenades, the Apaches flew back to base, 30 of them shot up, several disablingly so. One helicopter was shot down in the encounter, and its two crewmen were taken prisoner.
After that incident, Apaches were used more cautiously—on reconnaissance missions or for firing at small groups of armored vehicles. Rarely if ever did they penetrate far beyond the front line of battle, out in front of U.S. ground troops or without the escort of fixed-wing aircraft flying far overhead.
Shortly afterward, when a speech by Saddam Hussein was broadcast over Iraqi television, some armchair commentators observed that the speech was probably live, or at least very recent, because he referred to the downing of an Apache. In fact, that proved nothing. If one thing could have been predicted before the war started, it was that an Apache would be shot down.
Last year, during the Afghanistan war, seven Apaches were flown in to attack Taliban fighters as part of Operation Anaconda. They all got shot up, again by RPGs and machine-gun fire. None crashed, but five were so damaged they were declared "non-mission-capable"—in other words, unable to go back into combat without extensive repair—after the first day.
In the 1999 air war over Kosovo, 24 Apache helicopters were transported to the allied base in Albania. Their arrival was anticipated by many officers and analysts as a turning point in the war. Yet, within days, two choppers crashed during training exercises. Commanders decided not to send any of them into battle; the risk of losing them to Serbian surface-to-air missiles was considered too great.
Attack helicopters have always been troublesome. The U.S. Army lost over 5,000 helicopters in the Vietnam War. (Nor is this a uniquely American problem: The Soviets lost hundreds of Hind helicopters to mujahideen firing shoulder-launched Stinger missiles during their Afghan venture.)
This sorry chronicle raises the question: Why did the Army build helicopters in the first place?
He of course fails to mention the thousands of lives saved by helicopters in Vietnam and anything good they might have done during their time in service. Even viewed in the light of what we knew in 2003 this article was pretty dumb. But now it borders on the insane. I'm sure he's a nice guy though.
If you'd like to read the rest of the article which tells the tale of the "Key West Agreement" and gives his opinion that the Apache should be scrapped and the A-10 production line re-opened (did they still have any of the tooling around even then?) please click HERE
Remember this article anytime you see the name, Fred Kaplan ("Military Genius").