[Paleopsych] Choppers going down in Iraq

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Sat Jan 14 04:42:39 UTC 2006



"The power of an air force is terrific when there is nothing to oppose it."
- - Winston Churchill
"If it flies it dies." - - Anon. ADA NCO


When facing an enemy that has air superiority or air parity, air attacks are
not just a probability--they are a certainty. The following battlefield
experiences relate some success by ground units engaging enemy aircraft with
small arms.

Lesson Learned

Fire at a coordinated selected aiming point (football field method) in front
of the aircraft so that it will fly into the "Curtain of Lead."

British troops were preparing to move out of the beachhead at San Carlos Bay
when four Argentine jets flying at a low level appeared without warning and
headed out over the water. Forces on the ground firing small arms and
automatic weapons placed a "curtain of lead" in front of the flight path of
the aircraft. As the four aircraft exited from the area, pieces of the tail
section from one of the Mirages began to fall off and smoke appeared to be
coming from out of its side just before it crashed. [15]

Lesson Learned

The use of a higher proportion of tracer rounds can disturb an enemy pilot's
concentration enough to cause him to miss the target or abort his attack

One British officer said that everything fired at attacking aircraft had
good effect. If the aircraft was not shot down, the tracers and pyrotechnics
intimidated the pilot into using his weapons prematurely, changing his
interest, or aborting the mission. To ensure that the Argentine pilots knew
they were being engaged by ground forces, the British relinked their machine
gun ammunition to add more tracers. British ground forces were credited with
downing three Argentine jet aircraft with small arms. [16]

Lesson Learned

Helicopters are especially vulnerable to ground fire.

Helicopter losses to ground fire on both sides were minimal. The British
lost four helicopters to ground fire and the Argentines lost one. However,
these low losses can be attributed to the support mission (resupply)
assigned to the helicopters and to the relatively few helicopters used by
both sides. Attack and air assault missions would have exposed these
critical assets to more small arms and shoulder-fired surface-to-air
missiles. [17]

U.S. forces in Grenada lost two helicopters to ground fire from Cubans at
Edgmont military barracks. The Rangers used four UH-60 to conduct an air
mobile assault on the Cuban stronghold. The landing zone was tight and
surrounded by a high barbed wire fence. In the last wave, one helicopter was
hit by small arms fire. The pilot, wounded in the arm and leg, lost control
of his aircraft and it tumbled into another UH-60 already on the ground.
Several soldiers on the ground were killed by the falling aircraft. [18]

The Mujahideen, Afghanistan freedom fighters, have proved to be major
threats to Soviet air during combat operations. An Afghan pilot of the
Communist Afghan Army, who defected in 1984, disclosed that the Soviet built
MI 24 (Hind) was extremely vulnerable to machine gun fire, especially when
it is engaged from elevated positions in the mountains. The Mujahideens'
effectiveness in engaging Soviet aircraft with all weapons systems forced
the Soviets to adopt the technique of engaging the Mujahideen at maximum
range. For example, the Soviets began to drop their bombs from 5000 feet and
fire their rockets beyond maximum effective ranges at the Mujahideen. As of
1984, the Mujahideen were credited with shooting down close to 300 Soviet
helicopters using small arms and anti-tank weapons. After the arrival of
Stingers in great numbers, the combined use of small-arms fire and
anti-aircraft missile reportedly brought down an average of one Soviet
aircraft a day during 1987. [19]

Lesson Learned

A coordinated team effort using all organic weapons can help win the
airspace battle over friendly forces.

Air defense in the Iranian and Iraqi armies relies on air defense artillery,
SA-7s, and the concentrated fire of automatic weapons. Both sides use the
"curtain of lead" technique to focus the firepower of their small arms.
However, this technique works best as a supplement to other ADA systems.
Small arms fire and SAMs used together caused both Iran and Iraq to change
their close air support tactics. Aircraft from both sides now have to engage
their targets at the weapons system's maximum effective standoff range
rather than overflying the target. This makes them less accurate and
provides some measure of relief to the beleaguered infantrymen. [20]


These publications will help you train your unit to defeat attacking enemy

FM 44-8, Small Unit Self-Defense Against Air Attack, Dec 1981, is the
primary doctrine for defense against enemy air attacks.

FM 7-8, The Infantry Platoon and Squad (Infantry, Airborne, Assault,
Ranger), 31 Dec 1980. Appendix H describes the procedures that small units
should use in engaging enemy aircraft with small arms.

FM 7-10, The Infantry Rifle Company (Infantry, Airborne, Assault, Ranger),
Jan 1982. Appendix P provides doctrine at the company level on how to engage
enemy aircraft.

FM 7-20, The Infantry Battalion (Infantry, Airborne, and Air Assault), Dec
1981. Chapter 5 provides doctrine at the battalion level on engaging enemy

Bottom Line

Coordinated fire from small arms is effective against enemy aircraft. Even
if an aircraft is not hit or destroyed, it can intimidate the pilot and
cause him to fly higher or seek an easier target.

Lesson Learned

Live fire training teaches the importance of accurate and disciplined fire
and helps prepare the soldier for the shock and noise of combat.

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