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Chapter II: The Cardinal Rules


The following list is composed of those basic guide lines that are called the cardinal rules of armed helicopter tactics. These rules are proven and valid. Remember them.

A. Do not overfly the target: Experience has shown that the majority of aircraft hits and casualties occur when the aircraft flies directly over an enemy position. Once a target is identified, a firing pass should be initiated at a distance of 2500 meters or less from the target and broken off no closer that 500 meters. The weapons on the aircraft are just as effective at 500 meters as they are at 200 meters and the probability of your aircraft being hit increases the closer you get to the target.

B. Do not fly in the Deadman Zone without a reason: The Deadman Zone is generally that airspace from the ground to 500 feet. When it is possible to accomplish the mission and stay at 1000 feet or higher this should be done. In many cases the mission cannot be done adequately from this altitude. When the mission dictates flight in the "Deadman Zone" the element leader should make careful plans to minimize the time spent in this zone. It is also better to be at tree top level if you must go below 500 feet. Accomplishment of the mission is the most important factor and will dictate the altitude to be flown.

C. Never fly the 180 degree wing position: Flying directly behind the lead helicopter usually results in both ships having the same ground track. By flying in an extended left or right echelon each ship has a separate ground track and will not over fly the same area. When two ships fly over the same areas with the same ground track, the first ship alerts the hostile forces on the ground to the presence of aircraft and in- creases the ground fire hazard to the wing ship.

D. Always make a high reconnaissance: Only in rare instances is it necessary to proceed into an area at low level without making a high reconnaissance first. An example of this would be if weather conditions are such that a high reconnaissance would place you in the deadman zone. In this instance, it would be wiser to go directly into the area at tree top level, rather than expose yourself at a higher altitude. Normally you should make a point not to do low flying until you have flown high. The high reconnaissance provides valuable information about the enemy situation and terrain which might go unnoticed while at tree top level.

E. Always assume that the area is hot: Even after a thorough high and low reconnaissance it is still quite possible to receive fire. Never assume that the area in which you are operating is anything but hostile.

F. Never fire until you have the friendly forces located: Remember to identify the front lines, flanks and adjoining units. This should be the first order of business when arriving in an operational area. Ground fire cannot be returned until the friendly troop locations have been positive1y identified. If at all possible, radio contact should be established before any firing begins.

G. Never fly parallel to terrain features: Flying parallel to terrain features is dangerous primarily because of the length of time your aircraft is exposed to the enemy's weapons which are generally employed along tree lines, canal lines etc. Also flying parallel to terrain features establishes a pattern. When a pattern is established it makes the enemy's job easier since he can predict your flight path. It is far better to avoid such terrain features as much as possible unless the mission dictates otherwise. If flight over and around linear features is necessary, it should be at various angles to them.

H. Avoid firing over the heads of friendly troops: Firing over the heads of troops is most often the poorest attack direction for several reasons. First, your machine gun cartridges and links falling on the troops cause a serious control problem for the ground commander. The falling brass and the noise of the guns creates the impression that your fire is directed into the friendlies. Secondly, by attacking over their heads your path of flight is straight into the enemy's field of fire aimed at the friendly troops. Third, the enemy troop disposition is most likely to be parallel to the friendlies. Your attack over the troops would not make maximum use of your weapons beaten zone. Attacks should be planned to make the long axis of the beaten zone of the weapons correspond as nearly as possible to the long axis of the target.

I. Expend only when you have a worthwhile target: Don’t waste ordnance and do not expose yourself and your crew by engaging an unworthy target. Remember your mission. Do not expend unless you feel that it is necessary to neutralize or suppress a target and do not jeopardize completion of your mission by expending 100 percent of your ordnance, when 5O percent would do.

J. Always know the situation: Before becoming engaged in a given operation be certain that you familiarize yourself with all pertinent information. This should include the ground plan, air plan and all co-ordinating information concerning supporting forces, artillery, fighters, etc.

K. Take your Time: Shock action and surprise are part of armed helicopter tactics but can only be accomplished by relatively experienced crews without jeopardizing the safety of all concerned. While you are learning the trade of flying armed helicopters, remember to concentrate on accuracy and sound tactics, speed will follow.

L. Brief your elements to a man: Everyone inside your helicopter is a very important member of your team. You should never leave on a mission until you have briefed all crew members. When the mission is a rushed, you may have to brief in the air. Often you will receive information over the radio which pertains to your mission from other aircraft in the area or on the same mission or from ground forces in the area. Teach your team mates to monitor the radio and remember the things that are said.

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