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Army tests Apaches during RIMPAC exercises at sea

The Army in Hawaii has landed Black Hawk and Kiowa Warrior helicopters on the decks of underway Navy ships in the past as the land service seeks to prove its sea-based flexibility.

During the current Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Army added some firepower, landing AH-64E Apache Guardian gunships on the amphibious ship USS Peleliu.

"The reason it's interesting and different is because the Apache is a land-based piece of equipment," said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Gottschling, an instructor pilot with the 1st Armed Reconnaissance Battalion.

"By training us how to do the ship landings on a larger ship, it enables us to forward project our force by doing the cross-training with the Navy and the Marines."

The Apaches also were to test their ability to provide a counteroffensive role against simulated enemy attacking ships.

Eight of the latest model Apache Guardians were shipped to Hawaii in June from Fort Carson, Colo., for RIMPAC, separate training in Hawaii, and for a new deployment model being tested by U.S. Army Pacific.

Longer term, the Army plans to replace its aging Kiowa scout helicopters at Wheeler Army Airfield with Apache gunships.

With a stated U.S. goal of not becoming enmeshed in coming years in protracted land wars, the Army has set out to become more agile and quick-reacting -- in short, more expeditionary, like the Marines.

Four of the Apaches are being shipped farther into the Pacific -- including Indonesia -- for the first "Pacific Pathways" that calls for exercises and engagements with foreign nations that will have rotational Army forces travel from exercise to exercise for months at a time.

Those soldiers also could be diverted to a combat mission or respond in the event of a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief need.

Col. Kenneth A. Hawley, commander of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Wheeler, said in June that there's plenty of room for Navy, Marine Corps -- and Army -- helicopters on the decks of Navy ships when emergencies arise.

"I think if you talk to a lot of (military) leaders out here, there's more than enough operational missions for all services to really execute," Hawley said. "And this just adds to the capability of the (U.S. Pacific Command) commander if he's got to execute anything he needs to. It can be with the Marines, it could be with the Army."

The other four Apaches are scheduled to conduct training at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island before returning to Fort Carson in mid-August.

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