Air assault

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Current usage of the term air assault is something of a misnomer, in that it has tended to be restricted to helicopter-borne troops. Historically, the broader concept of using air mobility to move troops directly into battle includes airborne or parachute infantry, and either transport gliders or assault transport aircraft capable of landing on a target. Given their flexibility in movement, they can force battle in a location of their choosing, allowing them to affect not only the tactical level of land warfare, but also the level of operational art.

Air mobility is a superset of air assault, in that it can be used to bring troops into an area of operations, but not directly into battle. Given appropriate heavy transport aircraft and ground installations, it is possible to bring small formations of heavy armored vehicles into an area of operations, although such equipment more commonly moves by sea or land. Yet another option is to use prepositioning ships that store the heavy equipment at seaports in secure ports, and have them steam to a friendly base, to which the troops fly on passenger transports.

There is a delicate balance of operational flexibility versus combat staying power. With air refueling of their transport aircraft, parachute troops of a major power can literally strike anywhere in the world. Such troops, however, can take little in the way of heavy weapons or even supplies, and, once they have reached the ground, are largely dependent on their feet for transportation. If they cannot link up with friendly ground troops in a reasonable time, or take advantage of unusual defensive conditions (e.g., seizing an island), they are vulnerable to much less advanced forces.

Glider attacks are obsolete, but assault landings using suitable transport aircraft (e.g., C-130 Hercules) can bring in much heavier loads. The challenge here is that practical assault landings need at least minimal runways. One alternative is to deliver an initial force by parachute, a force that includes construction engineers and small earth-moving equipment, and then build a minimal runway for assault transports. The fixed-wing transports can then bring in heavier construction equipment. Alternatively, there may be special operations where assault transports can be the first wave onto a poorly defended airfield, as was the case of the Israeli hostage rescue operation at Entebbe, Uganda.

Troops moving by helicopter or vertical takeoff aircraft such as the V-22 Osprey are a compromise. They can carry heavier equipment, and can make frequent high-speed movements by aircraft. Intensive heliborne movement, however, have huge logistical requirements and require a safe base area -- or naval force -- in the general area of operations.

Means of moving into battle

The air transport vehicles for all of these means are extremely vulnerable to true fighter aircraft, and usually vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles, a force intending heliborne operations must have air superiority and preferably air supremacy. There are some exceptions for clandestine special operations techniques, but, in general, no air assault can succeed when an alerted enemy still has a viable air defense.

Even when their own side has control of the air, infantry arriving by parachute or assault landing are extremely vulnerable to even light ground troops, until they can assemble and deploy heavier weapons. Heliborne operations, accompanied by armed helicopters and close air support, may be able to suppress the defense long enough to get into effective formation. Otherwise, they will depend on surprise, as at Eben Emael.


As in most human endeavors, man's reach may exceed his grasp.

"if a man had a tent made of linen, of which all the apertures have been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia [21 feet] across and twelve feet in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without sustaining any injury." — Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1483[1]

In 1918, then-Colonel Billy Mitchell proposed to use every U.S. bomber to parachute the entire 1st Infantry Division behind German lines. There was no doctrine, the troops had no training, and it was unclear where 12,000 parachutes were to be found. Gen. John Pershing was not amused. [2].

Several terms describe infantrymen qualified to use a parachute as a means of moving directly into battle: paratroop or paratrooper, parachute infantry, airborne infantry, and various individual national and temporary designations.

Between the wars, the greatest effort in the combat use of paratroopers was by the Soviet Union. Most nations realized the potential, and several nations demonstrated company-sized drops in the thirties. They also experimented with dropping in heavy equipment, and also various glider and powered transport airlanding operations. By 1935, battalion-sized drops were a reality.

Glider and assault transport aircraft

Gliders were obsolete by the end of WWII, but the assault transport has taken their place in select circumstances. The assault transport rarely takes the first combat troops into battle, as they did at Entebbe, but usually brings in larger units and equipment once an airfield has been seized.

Helicopter and tilt-rotor aircraft

Air assault, also known as airmobile units, are military units that move into action on helicopters or tilt rotor aircraft.[3] This allows them to make extremely fast movements in an area of moderate size, typically a 100 mile/163 kilometer radius from their base. When the base is on a ship, the potential area of the first landing, of course, is much larger.

Depending on the national doctrine, the troops may travel in unarmed or lightly armed helicopters,[4] or, as with Russian doctrine, helicopters with heavy armament.

U.S. Army air assault troops may exit their helicopters using ladders or dangling ropes, with the helicopter not actually landing. They do not, however, use parachutes to reach the ground; troops trained for combat parachuting are called airborne or paratroopers rather than air assault.

Historical development of parachute operations

German parachute operations in 1940

Early in the April 1940 invasion of Norway, paratroopers attempted to seize airports, but were turned back by weather. The commander of the first airlanding battalion to follow them decided to land anyway, with substantial casualties. The jump failed; the airlanding succeeded. A different attempt failed, but again took heavy casualties and eventually surrendered.

German paratroop success was to come in Holland in May, with a brigade-sized jump and airlanding attack under their excellent airborne commander, Gen. Kurt Student. Student himself landed at an airfield seized by the first wave, and ordered in the rest of the force.

Brigade-sized jumps

Corps-sized jumps

Neither of the large airborne operations of the Second World War was executed smoothly, but the one with more modest objectives, which expected rapid linkup with many conventional units, helped victory in the larger battle. That the other is best known by the quote "a bridge too far", with the main objectives not taken, reminds us that war rewards boldness, if an only if the boldness is combined with wisdom.


During the night of June 5-6, 1944, before the main amphibious landings at the Battle of Normandy, U.K. and U.S. paratroopers and glider-borne infantry landed on inland objectives that would be critical for a German counterattack against the beachhead. Few large units were able to form quickly, but aggressive initiative by LGOPs caused confusion among the Germans, compounding their problems in counterattacking and resisting the movement inland of the much larger amphibious forces that landed the next morning.

There were, however, focused attacks on specific targets, for which the attacking force was able to maintain cohesion, take an objective, and hold until relieved by the main force. Perhaps the best such example was the capture of the Bénouville Bridge, over the Caen River, admittedly by a glider-borne force rather than paratroops. Operation Pegasus, by units of the 2nd Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, led by Major John Howard, not only helped prepare the battlefield for the amphibious landing. Taking the bridge protected the main parachute landing, 40 minutes later, by the U.K. 6th Airborne Division.[5] Today, the bridge has been permanently named Pegasus Bridge by France.

Arnhem area operation

Much less successful was Operation MARKET-GARDEN, beginning on September 17, 1944. It was intended to seize bridges over the Maas, Waal and Rhine Rivers in [the Netherlands]]. While the other river crossings were necessary prequisites for land-based forces to move forward, the Rhine bridges at Arnhem as the most critical target.

The name reflected two major sub-operations: MARKET was the actual parachute and glider landings by the three divisions (one U.K., two U.S.) and one Polish brigade of the First Allied Airborne Army; GARDEN was the linkup by XXX Armored Corps. Unknown to the Allied command, a German armored corps had retreated into Arnhem to rest and recover from battle, creating a much stronger defense. The drop and landing zones were far enough from the actual bridges, in Arnhem, that they could not be reached in a single rush, as was Pegasus Bridge.

By every account, the British forces in Arnhem fought brilliantly, but from unfavorable positions against much stronger resistance than expected. Eventually, the 6th Airborne Division broke up, some units surrendering after fighting overwhelming odds, and other units and individuals managing to evade capture and reach friendly forces.

Later specialized development

High-altitude low-opening (HALO) and High-altitude high-opening parachuting required technology beyond that of a few adventurers in WWII.

Historical development of assault landing operations

In World War II, there were several means of air assault that did not involve parachuting. One, obsolete today but anticipating rotary-wing assault aircraft, was by troop- and equipment gliders, far more massive than modern sport sailplanes. In a few cases, with mixed success, troops landed directly on airports and attempted to seize them.

Eben Emael: enter the assault glider

Germany also were to be successful with a 1940 glider assault, with a force heavy in combat engineers, that landed directly on the fortifications of Eben Emael, Belgium, and forced their way in, rather than fighting through the approaches covered by Belgian firepower.

Explosive power falls off rapidly with distance. While fortifications might be immune to a weight of explosive that bursts near the target, a far smaller amount, placed against the actual target and arranged to deliver its blast in the desired direction, can be vastly more effective. This is one of the reasons the German engineers could penetrate Eben Emael, which bombers of the time could not destroy.

Historical development of helicopter operations

See also: Tactical Mobility Requirements Board

While the helicopter had very limited use in the Second World War, it is one of the icons of the Korean War. Still, the U.S. spent a great deal of time studying large airmobile units, with the French conducting, in Algeria, the first recognizable airmobile operations, Also before the U.S. completed its tests of division-sized airmobile operations, it provided the Republic of Vietnam with helicopters for lifting Vietnamese soldiers.

Since the V-22 Osprey is the first operational tilt-rotor aircraft, and takes off and lands in the same way as a helicopter but transitions to fixed-wing flight, it is a new subset of helicopter operations.

Korean War aftermath

Helicopters of the early 1950s, however, had only a small payload, and were primarily used for observation, medical evacuation, and similar support missions not carrying units into combat.

As the direct result of the experiences in Korea and the disagreements over Army aviation between the Air Force and the Army, Secretaries Frank Pace, Jr. of the Army and Thomas K. Finletter of the Air Force signed a special Memorandum of Understanding dated 2 October 1951. Under the terms of this document organic Army aircraft would be used by the Army "as an integral part of its components for the purpose of expediency and improving ground combat and logistics procedures within the combat zone." Detailed functions under the exclusive control of the ground force commander which might be performed by Army organic aircraft were spelled out in this Magna Carta of Army aviation. Predictably this did not settle the so-called roles and missions issues between the Services.[6]

Air assault is often considered a U.S. development, but, even though the U.S. had formed 12 helicopter battalions in August 1952. The available helicopters could not carry effective numbers of troops, but this was an indication that the U.S. Army was investigating the role. Actual combat employment was pioneered by the French in Algeria.

More serious study came in the mid-fifties. Charles Tolson, later a lieutenant general in Vietnam, was head of the Airborne Department of the Infantry School, and reorganized it to contain an Airmobility Division. Using H-19 and H-34 helicopters, a helicopter troop transport company was developed, and a first manual published.[6]

U.S. Marines first put a helicopter detachment aboard the carrier USS Valley Forge (CV-45) in 1957, and began extending their amphibious warfare capabilities to include operations from flight decks.[7]

In a separate development, the Army Aviation School was experimenting with helicopters armed with machine guns and rockets, creating armed helicopter doctrine. Colonel Jay D. Vanderpool. Chief of the School's Combat Development Office, created, by mid-1957, an "Aerial Combat Reconnaissance Platoon", which became, in March 1958, the 7292 Aerial Combat Reconnaissance Company (Provisional). Troop lift and armed helicopter reconnaissance could be said to be dating, but certainly not married. Of course, at the time, the U.S. did not have a war needing a full family of helicopter-based combat functions. France, however, did, and France also did not have a "roles and missions" fight between their Army and Air Force.

Vanderpool's group did develop plans for larger units, and presented them to the first Director of Army Aviation, then-MG Hamilton H. Howze. In 1959, LTG Arthur G. Trudeau, the Army Army Chief of Research and Development, created a plan that he thought that would "bridge the gap" between the Army and Air Force capabilities. Trudeau's office issued development requirements for three kinds of helicopters, which would replace existing aircraft:

  • light observation
  • manned surveillance
  • tactical transport


Also in 1959, the French actually coordinated use of helicopters to carry infantry and provide support in Algeria, when French Air Force General Maurice Challe became Commander-in-Chief. He conducted large-scale operations with teams of CH-21 or CH-34 helicopters to move units into blocking positions, while other armed helicopters delivered suppressive fire onto the landing zone.

Early U.S. armed H-34

Helicopters were also routinely used for resupply and over 7,500 medical evacuations.

It is interesting to note that out of a fleet of over 250 helicopters operating in Algeria in 1959, none were lost that year to enemy fire. Although French helicopter resources were divided between the Air Force and the Army, there was no apparent conflict over the roles and missions of each. While the United States army was giving lip-service to air mobility, the French were commendably adapting this concept to their Algerian struggle.[8]

Without a French equivalent of the 1948 U.S. Key West Agreement, which established precise rules for what type of aircraft that could be operated by which service, and an actual war to fight, they were gaining "on-the-job" experience while the U.S. had the leisure to study the problem and think about large units.

First Vietnam experience

In December 1961, U.S. combat forces were not yet deployed in Vietnam, but, under the Military Assistance Advisory Group's auspices, two U.S. Army light helicopter companies, with a total of 82 H-21 helicopters, arrrived Republic of Vietnam. Twelve days later, they made an operational lift of 1,000 Vietnamesde paratroopers into a suspected enemy headquarters, surprising them and capturing a previously elusive radio transmitter.

This was an ad hoc action, not by a prepared and trained airmobile unit. Nevertheless, it gave increasing confidence that heliborne troops could act effectively, in a battalion-sized force. [6]

U.S. evaluation continues

An Army Aircraft Requirements Review Board, under LTG Gordon B. Rogers, was established to evaluate industry proposals for the new aircraft. It concluded that helicopter technology was up to providing a replacement for L-19, H-18, and H-23. The Board suggested that surveillance technology would be ready in 1970.

CH-47 medium helicopter carrying light howitzer and truck

For transport, the Board also recommended that more research was needed, and that was to include both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, which would eventually be met by the CH-47 Chinook medium transport helicopter and the CV-7 Caribou short takeoff aircraft. [6]

Division level evaluation: the Howze Board

After an April 1962 U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara wrote to the Secretary of the Army that he felt the Army's program was dangerously conservative. [6]The U.S. Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, or "Howze Board" under then-LTG Hamilton H. Howze, was chartered by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who directed the Army "examine aviation in a new light and be more audacious in using it."

First U.S. Airmobile Combat Deployments

Before the division arrived, the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived on 5 May 1965, and carried out air assaults in June. At first, it was supported by a helicopter battalion, with lift provided on a mission-by-mission basis. Later, a helicopter company was attached; the efficiency of having an aviation unit that always worked with the same infantry was strikingly better than a support role. This experience further emphasized the need for a team approach to air assault. [9]

Eventually, the 11th exchanged colors with the 1st Cavalry Division, which was the first major airmobile unit in the Vietnam War, under the command of MG Kinnard. The division that was deployed, in July 1965, differed from the AIR ASSAULT II organization. It had no armed Mohawks although it kept six with extensive sensors, one brigade was parachute-qualified, and the Little John rockets were gone.

Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) illustrates 1st Cavalry Division (Air Assault) as initially deployed in Vietnam

Doctrine: attached versus organic helicopters

As established by the early experience of the 173rd Airborne Brigade versus the experience, a few months later, of the 1st Cavalry Division (airmobile), when aircraft and ground troops regularly worked together, efficiency markedly improved.

In the 1st Cav, however, there were two kinds of attachments. There were enough troop-carrying, sometimes lightly armed, UH-1 family helicopters to lift one of the three divisional brigades at a time. While the Battle of the Ia Drang is sometimes called the first division-sized air assault operation, only one brigade at a time actually fought.

The special case was of the Air Cavalry Squadron, a battalion-sized unit that had permanently assigned helicopters and infantry that worked as teams. At the time, it had fairly basic unarmed or lightly armed scout helicopters, teamed with armed helicopters.

Hal Moore was promoted, after the Ia Drang, to a brigade command in the 1st Cav, and developed the concepts used in the Battle of Bong Son, which, while only one brigade was lifted at a time, the aviation elements moved from unit to unit so all brigades were in combat.

Brigade-sized attached helicopters

In October, GEN William Westmoreland, commanding Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MAC-V) ordered the 1st Cavalry Division and seek out and destroy three 32d, 33d, and 66th North Vietnamese Army Regiments, operating in the Central Highlands. This became the month-long campaign known as the Battle of the Ia Drang.

In November, then-LTC Hal Moore took 450 men of a the 1/7 Cavalry battalion -- the same unit that George Armstrong Custer took to the Little Big Horn -- to a place called LZ X-Ray. [10], and was soon in a desperate fight. There are strong suggestions that the North Vietnamese specifically wanted to test tactics against the new airmobile units, one of which was "hugging the belt" -- staying in such close contact that the U.S. support weapons could not be used for fear of fratricide. Approximately 4,000 NVA hit LZ X-Ray, and the situation, for a time, was desperate for the Cavalry. Eventually, they were reinforced, but the original unit had close to 50 percent casualties. It is estimated that the NVA took at least 4 times the casualties, but the U.S. force made an orderly retreat; Moore considers the battle a draw. It demonstrated that air assault tactics were not a panacea.

Helicopter weapons

Weapons systems engineers get a bit nuanced in speaking of unarmed "slick" helicopter versus armed helicopters versus attack helicopters. In Vietnam, a helicopter was marked with a red cross -- not all medical evacuation helicopters were, especially Air Rescue Service combat search and rescue (CSAR) (e.g., HH-3 Husky, known as the "Jolly Green Giant") -- it would be the more the rule than the exception that they didn't have one or two 7.62mm M-60 light machine guns in door mounts, fired as a secondary mission by crew chiefs, etc. These were viewed as self-defense weapons, and carried limited ammunition.

Armed helicopter still had door guns, and the armament could easily be removed to get more lift. In general, an armed helicopter could be used, on a mission-by-mission basis, for troop lift, light fire support, or some mixture. See Vietnam-era armed helicopters.

Attack helicopters, such as the AH-1 Cobra, was purpose-built for maximum fire effectiveness and, while it might be able to squeeze in a few troops, or more likely a helicopter crew being rescued, did not just have door guns.


Heavy CH-54 helicopter carrying medium CH-47 helicopter

During the Vietnam War, fire bases were set up with medium Boeing CH-47 "Chinook" helicopters, which could transport the 2-ton 105mm light howitzers, light vehicles, and ammunition; the larger CH-54 Tarhe ("the hook") lifted the larger 8-ton 155mm medium howitzers that gave the firebase enormous killing power. Generally, the greater mobility of the 105, and the quick availability of armed helicopters and jet fighter-bombers, made 155s and heavier howitzers less important, unless they were already in a semipermanent base.

In addition, a firebase might include M110 (self-propelled) or M115 (towed) 8-inch howitzers and M107 175-mm self-propelled guns. Using these weapons required secure road access, at least for a well-armed convoy, to the firebase.

One of the challenges of firebase operations was target acquisition. Since accurate navigational systems such as GPS were not available, the artillery had to depend on forward observers on the ground or in the air. Ground observers had to have some landmark, also visible to the firebase, as a point of reference. Forward air controllers flying over the target area had better navigational capabilities, so they could direct the artillery relative to a colored smoke grenade thrown by ground troops, or by a white phosphorus smoke rocket fired by the aircraft, with the ground forces then giving the airborne FAC range and bearing from his smoke rocket to the target.

To avoid the enemy trying to misdirect the fire, even onto one's own troops, the convention was for the ground troops to throw a colored smoke grenade but not to announce its color. The airborne observer would say, "I see purple smoke", and the ground troops would then radio "I confirm purple smoke," or "negative! (because they had thrown green smoke)".

In modern operations, the availability of GPS and laser rangefinders with ground troops who have a data link to artillery or air fire direction, or who can "paint" a target, with a laser designator, for a precision-guided munition, has made the process immensely more reliable. See special reconnaissance.

Modern forces no longer use artillery heavier than 155mm, because air strikes, and even surface-launched missiles such as from the M270 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), have longer range, greater accuracy, and usually more powerful payloads.

Divisional level airmobile operations

While the first operation under an airmobile division headquarters was the Battle of the Ia Drang, in September-October 1965, not more than one brigade at a time, plus supporting troops, was committed. Actual division sized combat began a month later, at the Battle of Bong Son.

Even at Bong Son, there was helicopter lift for only one brigade at a time. The movements, however, were of companies or battalions at a time, and the entire force was in constant movement.

Modern parachute forces

While there were parachute, with supporting glider, drops of corps-sized formations in the Second World War (e.g., at the Battle of Normandy and Arnhem), there is no serious possibility of operations of that size ever taking place again. There have been a brigade-level jump in the 1989 Operation Just Cause invasion of Panama, and various smaller jumps, by units of the 82nd and the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States maintains a full parachute infantry division, and most of the combat units of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) are parachute-qualified. Indeed, many of the USSOCOM units are qualified in advanced parachuting techniques such as HALO and HAHO.

Multi-battalion or larger parachute infantry units are part of the militaries of Australia, India, Israel, [France]], Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Modern assault transport forces

No nation continues to have dedicated air-landing units, although that is a capability inherent to most special operations and parachute units.

Modern heliborne forces


In the current U.S. Army, the basic tactical unit for air assault is an Infantry Brigade Combat Team whose two infantry battalions are trained in air assault.

Major equipment

The U.S. Army primary troop transport is the UH-60 Blackhawk. While the [{CH-47 Chinook]] can carry a larger number of troops, the CH-47 is primarily used to lift trucks, light artillery and other battalion and brigade equipment.


Airmobile forces need to have bases at which they can maintain the helicopters, and load forces from trucks or local buildings. They may also operate from ships.[11]

Modern CH-47 helicopter being refueled

For longer tactical operations, the air assault units may establish forward ammunition and resupply points (FARP).[12]To reach an objective several hundred miles away, it may be necessary to "leapfrog" cargo helicopters ahead of the main force, which put fuel, ammunition, and small guard forces at points at which the main force will land and resupply. In some cases, FARPs may be established with fixed-wing transport aircraft or by truck.

Supporting arms

Lightweight supporting artillery (e.g., 105mm howitzers) and supporting equipment such as small earthmovers may be carried by the helicopters, the larger equipment as an external load hanging from a cable attachment point or winch on the bottom of the helicopter. Medium and large helicopters also can carry some equipment, such "humvee" or "dune buggy" ground vehicles, inside the aircraft's fuselage.

Fire support, however, often comes from armed helicopters (i.e., troop-carrying helicopters that have additional weapons) or purpose-built attack helicopters[13] that fly alongside or scout in front of the troop-carrying helicopters. This is especially the approach used to defeat hostile tanks and fortified points. [14]

Modern combat experience

Air assault units center around transport and armed helicopters, as well as attack helicopters. The latest development is to use a tilt-rotor aircraft such as the V-22 Osprey, which takes off and lands vertically with rotors parallel to the ground, as with a helicopter, but then tilts them to be on the axis of flight, giving the flight performance of a propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft.

Attack helicopters have been used independently of troop movement, with varying results. Missiles from AH-64 Apaches were literally the first shots to hit an objective in the Gulf War, blinding an early warning radar and clearing a path for a large number of fixed-wing aircraft. The two raids on Karbala, in the Iraq War, had mixed results; a raid with no additional support failed but a mission combined with artillery and air support met its goals.


The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), a paratroop division in World War II but reorganized for air assault in Vietnam, continued as an air assault division in the 1991 Gulf War, but under the AirLand Battle doctrine. [15]

Balkan operations

Lessons come from failures as well as from successes. The U.S. Army attempted to deploy air assault and heavy forces to Kosovo, but the logistics of deployment were very slow. Conditions needed forces heavier than light infantry, but no units really met the requirements there. Deployment problems here were a very major contributor to the thinking of then-Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, in creating units that had better strategic mobility, but relied on wheeled vehicles for tactical mobility: the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. Those wheeled vehicles, however, were intended to be movable by tactical transport aircraft (i.e., C-130 Hercules).

Today's air cavalry

Air cavalry units are now using OH-64 Kiowa Warrior purpose-built light attack helicopter, but emphasizing sensors over weaponry. It has its sensors on a mast that rises above the top of the rotor, so it can hide behind a hill or building, just exposing the top of the mast. That mast has low-light and night viewing sights, as well as a millimeter wave radar that will detect things that might be hidden by camouflage.

The OH-58 can fire its own weapons, precisely spot for artillery, or guide in missiles fired from other helicopters or even ground launchers. It has direct electronic links to the AH-64 Apache heavy attack helicopters.

Using new battlefield networks, and tools still being developed, the scout helicopter could get a message, or even a picture, from a high-altitude ground surveillance radar on an E-8 Joint STARS aircraft. That can tell the helicopter scouts that there are vehicles moving, 1.5 kilometers away on a bearing of 149 degrees. The helicopter will fly closer, hiding behind any concealment it can find, and periodically raise its mast. When it spots a target, and decides to stay concealed, it could tell its Apache friend, hidden completely behind a hill, to fire a AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile that the scout will guide into the target.

Alternatively, the scout could send the position to Air Force fighter-bombers, or even to a B-52 orbiting out of sight at 40,000 feet, ready to drop Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs to the exact position the scout sighted. Neither the Apache nor the Kiowa Warrior can drop 2,000 pound bombs on what turned out to be a tank park -- but the bombers can.


  1. Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Technical Committee, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  2. Galvin, John R. (1969), Air Assault: the development of airmobile warfare, Hawthorn Books
  3. Department of the Army (16 March 1987), Field Manual 90-4: Air Assault Operations
  4. Department of the Army (25 June 1997), Field Manual 1-113: Utility and Cargo Helicopter Operations
  5. Pegasus Bridge, 6th June 1944, British Army
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Tolson, John J. (1989), Chapter I: The Growth of the Airmobile Concept, Vietnam Studies: Airmobility 1961-1981, Center for Military History, U.S. Department of the Army
  7. "Valley Forge (CV-45)", Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
  8. Woodmansee, J. W. Jr. (1968), Chapter Four: Algeria (1954-1962), Revolutionary Warfare, Volume V, French Counterrevolutionary Struggles, Indochina and Algeria, United States Military Academy
  9. Tolson, John J. (1989), Chapter IV: The First Airmobile Division and the Buildup, 1965, Vietnam Studies: Airmobility 1961-1981, Center for Military History, U.S. Department of the Army
  10. Moore, Harold G. (Hal) & Joseph L. Galloway (1999), We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, Random House
  11. Joint Chiefs of Staff (10 December 1997), Joint Pub 3-04.1: Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Shipboard Helicopter Operations
  12. Sheiffer, Matthew J. (Winter 2003), "Hot Aircraft Refueling: Second to None!", Quartermaster Professional Bulletin
  13. Department of the Army (2 April 1997), Attack helicopter operations
  14. Mazarella, Mark N (1994). Adequacy of U.S. Army Attack Helicopter Doctrine to Support the Scope of Attack Helicopter Operations in a Multi-Polar World. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
  15. Wright, Robert K. Jr. & Rex Boggs (5 June 1991), AIR ASSAULT IN THE GULF: An interview with MG J. H. Binford Peay, III Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Oral History Program, Center for Military History, U.S. Department of the Army