Grafenwöhr live-fire missile drill readies pilots for new Iraq tactics
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Apache attack helicopters fired some 300 rockets and dozens of Hellfire missiles Friday as part of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade’s first “running” rocket and missile shoot in the training area.
Maj. Thom Crowson, 1st Armored Division’s Division Artillery (Divarty) operations officer, said 14 12th CAB Apaches participating in the exercise — from 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment — are training to deploy to Iraq later this year.
12th CAB operations officer Maj. Brian Hoff, said the Apaches practiced running fire — shooting rockets and missiles on the move at ground targets.
It is the first time running fire has been used on a range in Europe, according to 2-159 operations officer Maj. Scott Williams. The last time the unit fired rockets, in September, the helicopters fired while hovering, he said.
“For a running fire, you need a larger impact area. We have had to pretty much shut down the whole training area,” Williams said.
That meant that almost all of Grafenwöhr’s 77 square miles of ranges were off limits Friday morning during the rocket shoot.
Hoff said running fire is a tactic widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We are trying to get away from hovering fire in this fight to prevent the aircraft being a target,” he said.
Williams said the adoption of running fire as a downrange tactic predates recent incidents of aircraft downed by enemy fire in Iraq.
“With rockets and Hellfires and a full tank of gas, an Apache can’t hover as well as it can fly, so the platform is more stable [during running fire],” Hoff said.
The running fire exercise also involved: 94th Field Artillery Regiment multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS); 501st Military Intelligence Battalion unmanned aerial vehicles; 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment radar; and forward observers from 1st AD Divarty and 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
“The idea is to bring as many units in one place as we can to maximize training effectiveness,” Crowson said.
Skills taught in the training are a core capability for helicopter units headed downrange, Hoff said.
“Rockets are going in [downrange] but it is pinpoint accuracy now. This is stuff we have to do,” he added.
The training scenario used for the exercise involved the Apaches and MLRS units taking out vehicles stolen by insurgents, Hoff said.
“Our job is to stop them before they get to their destination,” he said.
Each Apache carries up to 16 Hellfire missiles, which have an unclassified range of 8 kilometers and are designed to take out tanks or more lightly armored targets, Williams said.
Cpl. Brian Edinger, who returned with his unit, the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion, in September from a yearlong mission to Iraq, said it was a thrill to see so many rockets fire at once.
“It is an incredible opportunity because this is stuff we haven’t even seen in combat. Over there, we saw five or six rockets. This involves three hours and about 300 rockets,” he said.