Pilots taught new combat manoeuvres following lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq

US Army Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter pilots are being taught new combat manoeuvres to help increase the aircraft's survivability and effectiveness during operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The new tactics were developed following combat experience in areas such as Afghanistan's Shahikot Valley and Karbala in Iraq, which showed changes were urgently needed.

Until recently combat crews have used "nap of the earth" hover and fight tactics developed primarily for the Cold War scenario in Europe, but in the latest conflicts this has made their aircraft vulnerable to small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles.

The revised tactics are based on a vastly expanded manoeuvre envelope, which has been doubled to +/-60° in pitch and +/-120° in roll. The previous 30/60° limits were placed on crews as a result of low-level tactics and life-cycle issues, but have been expanded through a test programme undertaken by the army's Aviation Technical Test Center (ATTC) at Fort Rucker, Alabama using input from Boeing and early AH-1G envelope expansion work dating to the early 1970s.

Five new combat manoeuvres have been added, some of them similar to the advanced flight characteristics demonstrated by Boeing display pilots at recent air shows. Intended to allow the crew to maintain a view of the target or danger areas as much as possible and to put as much distance as possible between themselves and ground fire, the new combat manoeuvres include a decelerating turn, dive recovery, pitch back turn, a cyclic climb and a pushover break.

The revised tactics are now being added to the Apache flight manual as a result of the work by the ATTC, which is now turning its attention to a similar, but less ambitious, envelope expansion for the army's Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter fleet.

Source: Flight International