Helo crews practice for fast-paced situations
Apache attack helicopter crews from a squadron based at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, have hit the firing ranges for some high-pressure tests of how well they work in fast-paced, mock-combat situations.
Nearly 300 soldiers of the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Brigade are at Rodriguez Range, about 30 miles northeast of Camp Casey. On Thursday they began their “Table 8” qualification, which requires the back-seat pilot and front-seat gunner to work together efficiently to find and strike targets.
The crews are flying the AH-64D Apache Longbow and being tested on locating and hitting targets with the helicopter’s rockets, missiles and 30 mm cannon.
While only eight Longbow crews are qualifying, most of the squadron’s members are at the ranges, including those who gas and arm the helos. The training requires solid teamwork.
“The biggest thing is emphasizing this is a crew event … because when they fight, they’re going to fight as a crew,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Stephen Grady, the squadron’s standardization officer.
In a typical Table 8 drill, a Longbow will hover over the target range, waiting for trainers to suddenly radio a combat scenario in which the crew must react.
“They’re sittin’ there on ready, they have no idea what’s coming next — it could be any engagement that we train to,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeff Johnson, the squadron’s master gunner.
A quick mind and eye are key.
“Acquire the target, ID the target to ensure it’s the correct one, and then destroy the target,” Johnson added. “In an engagement like that, you would have approximately 30 seconds to achieve a maximum score.”
Reflexes are also crucial, particularly the fingers that must find and press firing buttons.
“You can be a very smart individual and know everything” about the aircraft, “but if you haven’t moved those fingers … that’s what’s most taxing, the actual finger moves,” Johnson said. “That’s what takes the longest and usually distinguishes between who had the lowest score and who had the highest score. It’s usually not whether you hit the target but how long it took you to hit the target.”
Added Grady, “In a wartime scenario, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to be called upon to ‘put steel on target’ … and this week, we actually get our pilots to hone their skills, as well as verify the weapons systems on the aircraft.”
The squadron was expected to end the Longbow gunnery qualification by Monday, depending on weather and other conditions, said Lt. Col. Jeff Brown, the 3rd Squadron’s commanding officer.
After that, said Brown, the soldiers will move on to smaller ranges for work with rifles, machine guns and the AT-4 anti-tank missile. They’ll also set off hand grenades and Claymore anti-personnel mines.