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Saturday, November 1, 2008

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The Sniping Continues

I couldn’t help but read in amazement Giovanni de Briganti’s recent article concerning helicopter sniper operations as well as his assessment of allied helicopter capabilities ("Heli-Snipers Prove Effective: June 2008, page 54). I must have imagined in my mind the numerous sniper operations I flew in 2005 and 2006 in Iraq with the 101st Airborne. I suppose all of the sniper operations conducted by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq since the War on Terrorism began, heck since the Gulf War, never happened either.

Perhaps if the French joined us in Iraq as a dedicated ally against terrorist extremism they might be able to enlighten our inexperienced and inept military in the fine art of employing helicopter forces. Wait, that might require them to accede to "U.S. pressure" to take accountability on the world stage rather than wait for the U.S. to do the fighting for them.

History has shown the U.S. (if not the French and her European neighbors) that appeasement of dictators only fuels their aggression in the long run.

WO1 Erik Sabiston Ft. Rucker, Ala.

"...the mindless folly with which they acceded to U.S. pressure...." Disappointing-but not surprising-coming from a Frenchman!

Charles Nicholson ATP; CFII Concord, N.C.

CSAR With CH-47

In response to Col Hoover’s letter with regards to noise ("Feedback" October 2008, page 7), I was team lead on the JLASS/JWAG (joint low altitude survivability study/joint warfare advisory group) in March of 2005, when we at USCENTOM were experiencing an unacceptable amount of rotorcraft losses in theater. As a MANPAD subject matter expert I can assure you that noise matters.

Bottom line up front, when the test were run we found out that noise, be it from the rotor blades or the engines of a large fixed-wing, was the primary acquisition factor that assisted a MANPAD gunner to acquire targets! IR countermeasures are great but you can’t jam/suppress the human ear! Anyone in this business now is trying to reduce their IR signature along with their size. To say that size and noise doesn’t matter is dead wrong.

The CH-47 is nothing more than an RPG/MANPAD magnet. Ask around. The 160th flies missions at night for a reason. You can’t hit what you can’t see! Unless you plan on picking up every downed pilot at night, plan on some extensive and creative mission planning.

TTP (tactics, techniques and procedures) are great but it always helps to start ahead of the power curve not in region of reverse command!

With two engines to suppress from the IR threat and a silhouette of an 18 wheeler, the CH-47 is an easy target even for the challenged RPG/MANPAD gunner. Just ask those who left a CH-47 on Takur Ghar in Afghanistan March 2002.

With the increased MANPAD threat that is currently in theater, and future conflicts to come I would hesitate to send in a large noisy helicopter no matter where it was going. Helicopters will always be hard to protect because of what they are capable of doing. Designing helicopters so that their defensive systems (flares/DIRCM) complement their attributes rather than expose their survivability weakness will allow for mission success. Give me small and quiet anytime.

Col Clyde Romero USAF (ret) Marietta, Ga.

An A109 Rant — Good Timing

The A109-A or 109 LAH is perfect for the replacement of the OH-58 Kiowa ("Fast, Beautiful Flier" May 2008, page 24). The facts are clear of its cousin, a military version of the Eurocopter EC145 [that] are being procured by the Army as the UH-72A light utility helicopter to the tune of $2 billion! If the A109-A is secured, there would be mass interchangeability between the two airframes. While the ARH-70, another $2-plus billion, (now costs have increased by 50 percent) contract for 368 aircraft (500-plus aircraft as of summer 2008) is being wasted: In June 2007, it was agreed by the U.S. Army and Bell that the SDD phase should be extended for a year to 2008. This will conclude with a Limited User Test, followed by a decision on Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP). Three LRIP helicopters will be produced by 2009. Entry into service is planned for 2010. (It may now be as late as 2013) A stop work order was issued by the U.S. Army in March 2007 because of concerns over progress and costs on the project. However, in May 2007, the Army decided to lift this order and continue with the program. All this while the A109-A is off-the-shelf ready! The A109-A or 109-LAH and the UH-72A light utility helicopter (aka Eurocopter EC145) have interchangeable parts, the main rotor for instance...The choice seems obvious: The A109-A or A109-LAH should be secured rather than the ARH 70A militarized version of the Bell 407 helicopter! Please don’t let the Bell 407 be the Comanche part 2. I urge you, look into this information, tell it to your friends and colleagues pay attention to this problem as well as informing others!

William Gilroy Shoreline, Wash.

I must have imagined in my mind the numerous sniper operations I flew in 2005 and 2006 in Iraq with the 101st Airborne.

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