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Friday, August 05, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Rotary-wing Aircraft

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
CH-47 on a supply mission in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our tenth installment let's take a look at the most common rotary-wing aircraft of the war in Afghanistan. These can be anything from supply to transport to attack helicopters. Rotary-wing aircraft play a major role in the war in Afghanistan, and the war could not be effectively fought without them.

The United States

AH-64 Apache

In Afghanistan it is always a good feeling having Apaches on call for close air support (CAS). These well armed helos have helped ground forces out of many sticky situations in Afghanistan over the course of the war. They are absolutely indispensable to forces on the ground. 

The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a two-man crew. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed with a 30 mm M230 chain gun carried between the main landing gear, under the aircraft's forward fuselage. It has four hardpoints mounted on stub-wing pylons, typically carrying a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods. The AH-64 has a large amount of systems redundancy to improve combat survivability.

The U.S. Army is the primary operator of the AH-64; it has also become the primary attack helicopter of multiple nations, including Greece, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates; as well as being produced under license in the United Kingdom as the AgustaWestland Apache. American AH-64s have served in conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Israel used the Apache in its military conflicts in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip; British and Dutch Apaches have seen deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.

AH-64 providing Close Air Support (CAS) for ground element in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

CH-47 Chinook

This flying bus has dropped off countless war-fighters to the battlefield since it's inception during the Vietnam War. I've caught a ride on more Chinooks than I can keep track of. I'll never forget the feeling and rush I would get during air-assault missions in the mountain tops of Afghanistan via the Chinook; there's nothing quite like it.

The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter. Its primary roles are troop movement, artillery placement and battlefield resupply. It has a wide loading ramp at the rear of the fuselage and three external ventral cargo hooks. With a top speed of 170 knots (196 mph) the helicopter was faster than contemporary 1960s utility helicopters and attack helicopters, and is still one of the fastest helicopters in the US inventory. The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters.

The Chinook was designed and initially produced by Boeing Vertol in the early 1960s; it is now produced by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems. It is one of the few aircraft of that era – along with the fixed-wing Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft – that remain in production and frontline service, with over 1,200 built to date. The helicopter has been sold to 16 nations with the U.S. Army and the Royal Air Force being its largest users.

The CH-47D has seen wide use in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. The Chinook is being used in air assault missions, inserting troops into fire bases and later bringing food, water, and ammunition. It is also the casualty evacuation (casevac) aircraft of choice in the British Armed Forces. In combat theaters, it is typically escorted by attack helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache for protection. Its lift capacity has been found of particular value in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan where high altitudes and temperatures limit the use of helicopters such as UH-60 Black Hawk; reportedly, one Chinook can replace up to five UH-60s in the air assault transport role.

CH-47 leaving Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

UH-60 Black Hawk

In Afghanistan the Black Hawk is used heavily for medevac/casevac helicopters, as well as VIP transport.

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky submitted the S-70 design for the United States Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition in 1972. The Army designated the prototype as the YUH-60A and selected the Black Hawk as the winner of the program in 1976, after a fly-off competition with the Boeing Vertol YUH-61.

The UH-60A entered service with the U.S. Army in 1979, to replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquois as the Army's tactical transport helicopter. This was followed by the fielding of electronic warfare and special operations variants of the Black Hawk. Improved UH-60L and UH-60M utility variants have also been developed. Modified versions have also been developed for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. In addition to U.S. Army use, the UH-60 family has been exported to several nations. Black Hawks have served in combat during conflicts in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.

UH-60 Medevac helicopter leaving Firebase Vegas after a resupply helicopter was hit on the LZ by an RPG.
Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

OH-58 Kiowa

The Bell OH-58 Kiowa is a family of single-engine, single-rotor, military helicopters used for observation, utility, and direct fire support. Bell Helicopter manufactured the OH-58 for the United States Army based on its Model 206A JetRanger helicopter. The OH-58 has been in continuous use by the U.S. Army since 1969.

The latest model, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, is primarily operated in an armed reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The OH-58 has been exported to Austria, Canada, Croatia, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. It has also been produced under license in Australia.

The United States Army has employed the OH-58D during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Due to combat and accidents, over 35 airframes have been lost, with 35 pilots killed. Their presence has also been anecdotally credited with saving lives, having been used to rescue wounded despite their small size. In Iraq, OH-58Ds flew 72 hours per month, while in Afghanistan, they flew 80 hours per month. In 2013, Bell stated that the OH-58 had 820,000 combat hours, and 90% mission capable rate.

To be continued...

Shawn G in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


At 2:45 PM , Anonymous Prepper Will said...

AH-64 Apache = BAD MF'r!

30 mm M230 chain gun
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
Hydra 70 rocket pods
Dead Enemies

Great post!


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