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Sunday, April 1, 2007

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Delivering Fire

In response to Ernie Stephens’ recent column on firing from a helicopter, if you don’t meet force with force, the bad guys will escalate ("Delivering Fire", February 2007, page 66). My reasoning is the increase in "failure to yield" incidents as a result of politically driven, conservative pursuit policies.

Another factor to consider is when a brother officer is pinned down by fire, which has happened here.

There is a story of British pilots during World War II, one of whom asked, "What if I run into a whole squadron of Me-109s?" The more experienced Scotsman answered, "Rejoice, laddie. That’s why you’re here."

I’ve been shot at and departed the area. I did not go to the area expecting to be shot at. I think the chances of being hit are probably greater departing in a straight line than circling to return fire. My final note: a laser sight is essential to your observer being able to hit a target at night on night-vision goggles.

Name withheld by request

I am an old Vietnam War CH-46 driver. We packed a couple of 50-caliber machine guns. My gunner would point that gun and be right on target. We would go out in the ocean off the coast of Da Nang shark hunting and the guy was excellent, to say the least — the guy you wanted in back on a tough recon extraction.

We had the Huey gunship on all our missions until the Cobras showed up. I always liked eight eyeballs shooting at the bad guys. We had to go down to the ground and pick up the Marines in trouble, not the gun guys. The gunships did great.

I think you are making too many stupid rules. If the situation dictates, take out the bad guy. Get the job done. It is not that tough, but an automatic weapon is the answer.

Col. Erling Rolfson U.S. Army Reserve (retired)

New Rockford, N.D.

I retired from the Army June 1, 2006 as a CW5 in A Co., 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Since then, I have been an MD-530 pilot for Blackwater Aviation in Iraq. I know Ernie Stephens asked for input about use of deadly force from a police helicopter, but he may find the following information of use.

R&W’s Question of the Month

What more do you want to know about Frank Robinson’s R66 (see page 8)?

Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information at the bottom of the page.

I have spent some eight years conducting what we referred to in the 160th as "aerial suppression of a point target." We routinely conducted aerial sniper missions in A Co. and I conduct them daily in Iraq with Blackwater. All of the issues Stephens raised in the column have been previously addressed by the military special operations community, Blackwater, and at least two law enforcement agencies: the FBI and U.S. Coast Guard. I cannot speak for the last two, except to say they do conduct, or at least have in the past conducted aerial sniper missions.

For information on 160th’s aerial sniper missions, I would direct your attention to an article in the winter 2005 edition of Veritas, the Journal of Army Special Operations History. Copies can be obtained from U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

I am not at liberty to discuss our operations with Blackwater. However, I am certain Blackwater USA would be willing to work with Stephens’ agency in conducting aerial sniper training.

I hold the opposite opinion from Stephens regarding aerial snipers. They can be extremely effective. Granted, in a law enforcement situation they are much more limited. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered.

A few examples to consider: a shooter in an elevated position, such as the roof of a high-rise building. You can attempt to engage him from a lower platform. You can take the time to clear up through the building he is on in an attempt to assault his position. Or you can employ a trained aerial sniper team to engage the shooter in a fraction of the time it would take to do either of the previous examples. Vehicle interdiction is another scenario in which an aerial sniper can rapidly eliminate a high-speed or long-distance chase. Perhaps the worst case for law enforcement is a terrorist attack with multiple shooters in supporting positions.

The issue of ejected brass is easily solved. The communications issue is one that we are continuing to work on, but the team can still function effectively. Stephens’ example of not being able to hear air traffic control I don’t think is a realistic major concern. The bottom line is various agencies throughout law enforcement and the military use aerial snipers routinely and very effectively. I have had several successful aerial engagements against armed enemies.

Stephens’ concerns can all be overcome by equipment and training.

Kevin McLemore U.S. Army (retired)

Baghdad, Iraq

30th Street Heliport

Reader Ed Propper forgot to mention New York Airways’ use of the Vertol 44, (the military H-21) for night mail runs out of 30th Street ("NY Airways Was There," February 2007, page 7). They were thrilling flights.

Frank Hyatt

Former New York Airways Pilot

Harrisville, Pa.

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