Attempting even only to argue on the effective chance of survival of attack helicopters
(in theirs intended CONOP) against a first class enemy Army
, is totally moot.
As a matter of fact also today helicopters , even in "heavenly" environments, where them enjoy crushing ISR and ancillary support advantage and fighting against regional enemies immeasurably inferior under a technological and training point of view, are exposed to enemy fire
(often totally unguided ! ) on a daily basis
.The four most notable elements in deciding attack helicopter's survivability
(in theirs intended CONOP of tactical deep strike/counter-armored spearhead missions) are :1) Average expected survivability's time of friendly ISR assets
.2) Enemy fire power's composition ,concentration and capability to change position in the targeted "kill box" and in the corridors of intrusion.3) Average responsiveness of enemy active and passive sensors network .4) Quality of enemy field and self-defense ECM systems and of its masking assets.
In the past conventional wars point 1-3 and 4 never represented even only a concern for western Army planners
1) The critical EC-130H Compass Call and E-8 Joint STARS was never put one time under real risk to be downed
by part of the antediluvian SAM composing the enemy IAD or Air Force interceptors.
3) The level and area coverage of Iraqi and Serbian ELS, divisional and field radar and IR and acoustic sensors varied from abysmal to not-existent and vulnerability to NATO jamming
(for the active elements ) was very high for the clear technical obsolescence of radar design and basis components
4) Excluding some exceptions (often product of personal initiative by part of field operators) neither Iraqi or Serbian Army possessed any ECM mean to negate or ,better, corrupt the sensor data's chain necessary to western commanders to plan and guide SEAD and CAS missions, among which attack helicopter's employment
while in the coverage and masking proficiency , instead , the level of performances between Iraqi and Serbian Army was very pronounced
, and even only that difference was capable to produce enormous differences in the level of attrition of ground vehicles and field assets between the two Armies.
How anyone can easily infer, even minimum variations in the level of the operators training and in the technical performances of the assets linked to point 1, 3 and 4 would have generated an huge, disproportionate increase in the level of attrition among western CAS assets ,with a progressively faster level of attritions, degradation of theirs operational capabilities and chances of single mission success.
( when each of those asset cost ,on average, from 20 to 30 times more than the ground vehicles it is intended to engage and any loss become invariably a not-recoverable loss the situation degrade, in a progressively compressed time frame, toward the effective impossibility to conduct any mission against the enemy ground forces of a first level enemy).The unique factor
,among those previosuly cited , that played a role in attack helicopter operations was enemy ground fire density and composition in the area of the operation in Iraq
(in Kosovo no active employment is recorded) .
Usually the AH-64 was employed in area of Iraqi Army ground formation confirmed by ISR assets as not covered by the few Iraqi mobile 9K33 and 9K35 batteries and ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAA
; therefore the only real menace to AH-64 "Apache" was represented by Iraqi unguided small caliber fire , few medium caliber towed cannons - the bulk of which was ZPU-2 14.5 mm with few ZU-23-2 23 mm cannons - and the occasional Strela MANPADS
all employed in strictly fixed and scarcely camouflaged fire positions.
Moreover no Iraqi tank or IFV had any capability to employ gun launched missiles neither theirs vastly outdated FCS or ammunitions allowed to aim and engage hovering enemy helicopters in the time window necessary to them for complete the missile targeting sequence
As confirmed by CENTCOM coverage of the events, the great majority of AH-64 in return from theirs missions showed signs of small caliber fire
(usually infantry 7.62 mm and tanks 12.7 machine guns, shot from outside theirs maximum effective engegement range) hitting them in the transient approach phase to the mission's quadrant or during the fire sequence
In spite of what just said, the areas of Iraqi formations characterized merely by a relatively high density of ground fire
(with a similar composition !) was sufficient to be considered out-limit for AH-64 operations as confirmed ,for example by the same Major Regional General Buford G. Blount, Commander of the Third Infantry Division
" I ordered attack helicopters to remain West of Euphrates after the abortive attack by the 11th Aviation Regiment.
The area west of the river was too heavily build-up and there was too much potential ground fire. We don't risk to take the added risk of operating attack helicopters in this environment"
Anyone with even only a limited knowledge of the typical area control and consolidation operations foreseen in the highly mobile combined arms doctrine of the Soviet and Russian ground forces can easily realize as even a sector occupied by a motorized or armored brigade , for some strange reason even completely outside of Army Air Defense and Air Force's coverage, would have represented a true meat-grinder for enemy attack helicopters.