Friday, September 6, 2013

Apache's at Sea

Two AH-64D Apache helicopters from the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade and two riverine command boats from Coastal Riverine Squadron 4 conduct exercises in the Persian Gulf alongside the afloat forward staging base Ponce. (Sgt. Mark Scovell / Army)
Count me among those who see this as training that will be used in theater for action one day.
The Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade has been testing Army helicopters’ capabilities in a littoral combat environment, taking off from Navy ships, firing on targets and practicing deck landings, to see what Army aviation might be able to contribute to the future of maritime surface warfare.

From March through August, the soldiers spent time aboard the amphibious transport docks Ponce and Green Bay, dock landing ship Rushmore and aircraft carrier John C. Stennis.

Experts say Army aviation and the Navy have always worked together, but as current land wars draw down and the military turns focus to the Asia-Pacific region, while maintaining security in the Middle East, the services are looking at more ways to work together over water.

“What we are are trying to do now is continue that lineage of maritime operations,” said Maj. Scott Nicholas, the 36th CAB future operations chief.

“We’re trying to develop tactics, techniques and procedure for the littoral fight” — specifically, he said, TTP for countering fast-attack craft and fast-inshore-attack craft, or small boats that might approach a larger Navy ship along a coastline.
In the 1980s the US Army deployed small special forces helicopters on US vessels in dealing with Iran during the Tanker War. Those Army helicopters did very well against small boat combat, and it is worth the effort to put Apache's into that role today to see what Navy needs to do to support it.

Over the last decade there have been a number of sea base proposals that never panned out. One of the proposals I was always particularly found of was developing the capability to field the 101st Airborne division from a Sea Base. I'd like to think this activity helps the Army clarify what needs to be done in support of that eventual capability.

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