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CAMP UDAIRI, Kuwait — When Sgt. 1st Class Richard Martinez and his crew get done with an Apache helicopter, it’s filled with a bunch of nasty ways to get the bad guy.

Martinez, 35, is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the armaments shop of the 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, an Apache maintenance unit from Illesheim, Germany. They work side-by-side with the 11th Aviation Regiment’s two attack squadrons, the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment and the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.

For now, Martinez and his crew work out of a series of box-shaped portable offices near the south end of the airstrip at Camp Udairi. They sit right alongside the shops that keep up the avionics, airframes, hydraulics and powertrains.

All of those things are crucial to the Apache. But without Martinez and his crew, the Apache would just be a terribly expensive traffic helicopter.

The chance to work with weapons is what drew Spc. Damon Dunavan, 23, of Lansing, Kan., into the Army.

“I saw it on a (recruiting) video and I said, ‘That looks really cool!’” Dunavan said.

For starters, the AH-64 Apache (both the ’80s-vintage Alpha model flown by the 2-6 Cav and the brand-new Longbows used by the 6-6 Cav) can fire an oscillating automatic weapon stoked with 30 mm ammunition.

The first round will hit exactly where the pilot aims it, Martinez said. The rest of the burst will spray in a 20-foot radius around the target to ensure the kill.

The 30 mm gun is mostly for defensive purposes, in case someone or something gets too close.

The Apache’s signature weapon is the Hellfire missile. Its purpose is to blow away tanks, and it is very, very good at its job.

“It can destroy any known fielded armor in the world today,” Martinez said.

The Hellfire uses a double explosive charge to kill tanks. The first charge tears a hole in the vehicle. The second directs a shaped charge inside to destroy the tank and kill its occupants.

The Hellfire is a smart missile, which follows a laser line to the target.

The Apache pilot himself can paint the target, or it can be done by a special operations forces soldier on the ground. That allows the helicopter to stay hidden behind, say, a hill and still kill the target.

The Longbows carry a new type of radar-guided Hellfire that doesn’t need a spotter. The ship’s radar automatically reads all the potential targets in its field and prioritizes them according to the pilot’s needs.

The pilot can set the system to fire a missile at the target at his command, or he can set it to do it automatically. Since the missile has its own radar that is programmed to hit the target, the pilot can zoom away instantly — a system the Army calls “fire and forget.” The Longbow can stay hidden while shooting.

“He never has to unmask to fire,” Martinez said. “The survivability is enhanced because they don’t have to sit out in the open.”

If you think of a missile as something that shoots straight through the air and slams nose-first into a target, you’re way behind the times. A Hellfire actually flies tilted so its sensors can home in on the target. Like a bullet in a cartoon, when it reaches a preset distance it changes course. It turns sharply upward, noses over, then shoots straight down. That way it hits a tank at the highest possible speed where it is most vulnerable: from the top.

A Hellfire will not work, though, against an army massed on the ground.

“You couldn’t just lob it into a group of people,” Martinez said. “It wouldn’t do anything.”

To kill people or to take out larger targets like radar installations or barracks compounds, Martinez’s men can load the Longbow with one of several kinds of rockets. Unlike the “smart” Hellfire missile, these are old-fashioned “stupid” bombs.

“Rockets are fun,” said Spc. Edward Dominique, 24, of Wausean, Ohio. “They’re there to create fireworks.”

One of the most commonly used is the MPSM (Multi-Purpose Sub Munition) rocket. It is a cluster bomb, which explodes above the target and releases nine bomblets over any area 50 meters across.

The bomblets are guided with fins and designed to float down. Their shaped charges explode downward so less of their force is wasted.

“They’ll go on top of armor, vehicles, personnel,” Martinez said. “But if there’s a strong wind, they’ll blow off target.”

Then there is the HEPD (High-Explosive Point Detonating) rocket. It explodes more in the way you would think, with a massive explosion at the point of impact. These work well on larger buildings, or against convoys.

They fragment heavily and cause a lot of fire, so they are very destructive.

One of the ugliest rockets is the flachette, which is designed to cause a painful death. This one packs more than 1,000 nails around an explosive charge, set to detonate near a soft target, such as shoulder-launched air-defense missiles.

The nails act like darts, sticking in the person’s flesh and muscles. If it isn’t fatal, the pain is intense. But they won’t penetrate a building, so people who stay indoors won’t be hurt. It is designed not only to kill a victim, but deter others from attacking.

“It’s a very devastating rocket,” Martinez said. “In my 17½ years in the Army, I’ve never seen one loaded and fired.”

But pilots say it is still in the Army’s arsenal for certain specific purposes, mostly by special operations forces.

The job of Martinez’s soldiers is not only to load the weapons aboard the Apaches, but also to make sure their systems are working properly.

“I’ve seen this job change. (Now) it’s much more of a technical job,” Martinez said. “It used to be just loading ordnance.”

Oddly, it’s not especially dangerous. The rockets and missiles they work with are not explosive until they are armed by the Apache pilot.

The weapons crew members say they do not think much about the destructive force of the bombs they handle. To them, they are the tools they work with every day.

“Most of what we do, nine out of 10 times, is training,” said Warrant Officer 2 Dave Osteen, 36, of Chapel Hill, N.C, the armaments platoon leader. “It’s no different than me going to the (shooting) range and qualifying with my weapons.”

“I’m there to do a job,” added Dunavan, the Kansan. “I’m there to get the bombs loaded.”

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