Air Mobiity 1961-1971 Vietnam
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Also, the very nature of the helicopter, which looks very ugly and fragile compared to a sleek jet aircraft, adds to the conviction that flying one in combat is non-habit forming. On the plus side, the helicopter is the most agile of all aircraft and has a capability of taking advantage of cover and concealment at extremely low altitudes that would be impossible in a fixed-wing airplane.
It was soon proven that the helicopter was remarkably hard to shoot down and the most vulnerable part was the pilot himself. Personnel armor protection and armored seats greatly increased the pilot survivability. The experienced pilot used every unique aspect of the helicopter's flight envelope to his advantage. Observation from the helicopter is unequaled. The enemy learned that to fire at one was to give up his advantage of cover and concealment and generally bring a devastating return of machine gun fire and rockets.
A corollary to the advantage of seeing the enemy was the ability to identify our own troops with precision. Consequently, the armed helicopter pilot could safely place fires within a few meters of our own troops. This became particularly important as the enemy developed the "hugging" tactics which he used to avoid the heavier fires from our tactical air support and B bombers.
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The Army had long realized that the Huey-gun-rocket combination was a make-shift, albeit, quite ingenious, system that should be replaced by a new aircraft specifically designed for the armed mission. In the early 's, industry asserted that advance was within the state of the art. Experts in research and development urged the Army planners to go for a compound helicopter with an integrated armament system as soon as possible.
They argued that it was technically feasible and procurement of any "interim" system would mean the Army would be stuck with an inferior capability for years to come. Moreover, it appeared that an advanced system could be procured almost as soon as an interim aircraft. There were other pressures too. The Office of the Secretary of Defense had been critical of all the Services in their efforts to procure expensive weapon systems that appeared to offer only marginal improvements over the system they were to replace aircraft that flew a little higher or faster, tanks that had only slightly better performance, ships that cruised but a few knots faster.
Ever since the Howze Board, the Army was sensitive to any criticism that it was striving for less than the best in airmobility.
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Also, the Air Force maintained that much of Army aviation duplicated an Air Force capability rather than, as the Army claimed, complemented Air Force support. The Army decided that its best option was to hold a design competition for a totally new system that would offer unique capabilities. Unfortunately, what was a straight forward concept for a new armed helicopter soon became bogged down in a morass of permutations, modifications and additions to its design.
The technicians had taken over from the tacticians. The concept grew in complexity and cost.
Worse, it was being pushed into a later time frame when it was sorely needed in combat. Such things as a rigid rotor, ground avoidance radar, inertial navigation and computerization were straining the state of the art and pricing the Army out of mass production. A reevaluation was inevitable. Bell Helicopter Company had prudently carried on its own research and development program using proven dynamic components of the Huey.
Consequently, they were able to offer, at the appropriate moment, an "off-the-shelf" armed helicopter for just slightly more than the modified UH-1 that the Army was then buying to replace Vietnam attrition. The "Cobra" had enough speed to meet the escort mission; tandem seating; better armour; and a better weapons system. With the strong urging of the combat commanders, the Army decided to procure an interim" system for immediate requirements while it sorted out the problems of the "ultimate" system. The history of the use, lack-of-use, and misuse of DECCA has many important lessons for future developers of airmobile equipment.
It was recognized by the earliest planners that one of the limitations of the airmobility concept would be operating at night and under periods of extreme low visibility.
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Research and Development offered many possible options to improve the helicopter's capability under these conditions, but all were expensive and complex. The British had perfected a low-level radio navigational aid known as DECCA which essentially used three low frequency ground radio stations to propagate a series of hyperbolic curves which could be translated by a cockpit instrument into a position fix.
Accuracy depended on the spread of the stations, the distance from the station, and the weather conditions. Because of the low frequency, one of the attractive features was its low altitude capability. This contrasted to the line-of-sight limitation of omnidirectional radio navigation aid and Tactical Air Navigation used by the Air Force.
The Army tested several versions of the DECCA System and decided it had enough advantages to warrant its installation on command helicopters and lead aircraft. A big disadvantage in the DECCA system was the requirement for special maps printed with the hyperbolic grid and a reluctance by the user to take the time and effort to develop confidence in the system.
Its use was further complicated by the resistance of the Air Force to accept a position report in instrument weather from a DECCA read-out as a positive fix. The requirement for a secure, accurate means of low-level navigation remained. The 1st Cavalry was alerted to prepare one brigade. The brigade began movement on 1 October as the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry and the 3d Brigade command post departed for Chu Lai.
By that evening the 3d Brigade command post, the 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, B Company of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and C Battery of the 1st Battalion, 77th Artillery were closed and the Brigade was under operational control of the Americal Division. This deployment also involved the first major move of significant maintenance elements from An Khe to Chu Lai. This experience would prove to be extremely valuable in later operations in the I Corps Tactical Zone.
The concept of a brigade task force, in the U.
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Army's current division organization, is such that different battalions can be used under any brigade controlling headquarters. This allows a great deal of flexibility. First published in From the preface: "The purpose of this study is to trace the evolution of airmobility in the U. The integration of aircraft into the organic structure of the ground forces is as radical a change as the move from the horse to the truck, and the process is only beginning.
Because this change is not the product of one man or one small group of First published in Because this change is not the product of one man or one small group of men but rather a fortunate confluence of technology, tactics, and imagination, proper credit to every responsible individual is impossible.
I have tried to identify some of those people who made a major contribution throughout the years. Although Vietnam was the first large combat test of airmobility, air assault operations in Southeast Asia would not have been possible without certain key decisions a decade earlier. This study attempts to trace the most important milestones which led to the eventual formation of airmobile divisions. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published March 1st by Militarybookshop. UK first published More Details Original Title. Vietnam Studies. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
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