D. Escort of Unarmed Aircraft: 1. Planning: Often the armed team will receive the mission of escorting a single unarmed helicopter as it flies to various locations accomplishing a wide variety of missions. When given this mission the armed team is primarily concerned with the safety of the escorted ship when en route, landing and take-off. It must be remembered. that even with prior coordination the escorted ship may deviate from the directions and advice given him by the armed commander. In such cases, the armed team must be a flexible element. The armed element makes recommendations pertaining to the landing direction, type approach, etc., but the escorted aircraft makes the final decision. Good preflight coordination with both the armed and unarmed pilots present, will result in a smooth mission with the least number of radio calls and confusion in the air. Follow the operations order format and find out as best you can, the location of friendly forces in and around your intended landing area. Next, determine the mission of the unarmed ship. The medical evacuation of an advisor, for example, would cause you to plan much more differently than for a routine administrative mission. Coordinate the mission in as much detail as possible before taking off using the map and information pertinent to the intended operation. Always exchange call signs and radio frequencies to be used. The en route responsibility of the escort is to provide cover and possible extraction of the crew in the event the escorted ship should go down. The armed element commander must monitor the ground track on a map in order to immediately relay by radio the exact location of the downed aircraft and request any additional support, such as additional overhead cover, maintenance or recovery aircraft.
2. Formations: The en route formation of the armed element may be one of two recommended formations depending on the situation on the ground. Figure 4 shows the fire team in a modified fire team formation. This formation allows the trailing armed ship to place suppressive fire under the escorted ship and also under the lead armed ship. This formation is most commonly used. The fire team leader may elect to place his element approximately 200 meters to the rear of the escorted ship and abreast of each other. This formation allows for maximum suppressive fire under and to the flanks of the escorted ship but leaves the armed element vulnerable to any fire received from directly under them or to the rear. When the heavy fire team is employed in the
escorted role the en route formation and landing formation will usually remain the same; the fire team in a V. (See figure 5). The two leading armed ships are abreast of each other and approximately 200 meters to the rear of the escorted ship. The trailing armed ship will fly the slot and should be no more than 500 meters to the rear of the escorted ship. The trailing armed ship will trail be left flank aircraft when setting up the orbit.
3. Reconnaissance and landing: Upon reaching the
landing zone the escort moves out ahead of the unarmed ship and
begins a standard high and low recon. During the recon all information
pertinent to the landing should be recorded and transmitted to
the escorted ship as the reconnaissance is completed. The landing
zone report and approach recommendations should include: A report
of fire, security in and around the landing zone, weather conditions
including wind etc., identification of landing zone location i.e.
smoke or white "H" and a recommended approach route.
If necessary the escort may have to mark the landing zone with
smoke. This will identify it well for the approaching ship and
also provide an excellent source of wind information.
4. Setting up the orbit with fire team: As the escorted ship starts
his approach the armed element commander must insure that his element is in position to deliver maximum suppressive fire if the situation requires it. As the escorted ship touches down in the landing zone and the lead ship on the right passes abreast of him, he will break right and set up a 360 degree orbit around the landing zone. The second armed ship will continue along the left side for approximately 200 meters then he will break right and trail the lead armed ship 180 degrees, (See figure 6). The armed element will orbit the area at 80 knots, 500 feet altitude and maintain enough distance to the flanks to allow suppressive fire if the situation requires.
5. Setting up orbit with Heavy Fire team: The orbit procedure for the heavy fire team are essentially the same as for the fire team, the only difference being three armed ships 120 degrees apart (See figure 7) in the orbit pattern. Also, the armed ships on the right will extend past the escorted ship in the landing zone approximately 100 meters before making his break and setting up the orbit pattern.
6. The Take-off and departure: In your preflight coordination establish that when the escort ship is ready to "come out" of the landing zone, he should crank and call on the radio that he is ready. If the armed ships are on the ground, they must become airborne first. Once in the air, the armed commander recommends a take-of direction and a climb out heading. Once this is done, the armed ship commander positions his elements and calls the escorted ship out. Always confirm that the escorted ship does or does not intend to follow your recommendations before he starts a take-off or an approach.
F. Ground Convoy Escort: 1. Pre-mission Planning: Good permission coordination is a prerequisite for a smooth operation. Find out the route of the convoy and its destination, size and if there is an American advisor with the unit, and if so his call sign and radio frequency. The route may have troops stationed along the way and if so you must find their exact location. Remember to compute the flying time to the refueling point and coordinate necessary logistical requirements. Also brief the ground commander of your time on station.
2. The Escort: Your mission as armed escort is to protect the convoy, insuring that it reaches its destination safely. Begin your route recon by traveling down the route at from 1000 to 1500 feet and make a thorough, tactically sound high recon for about 3 kilometers ahead of the convoy. The exact distance will depend on the size and speed of the convoy. Look for road blocks, ambush position on the road edge, tracks that might indicate recent movement and photograph in your mind the layout of the land for your low recon. The high recon should basically be executed in S-turns moving ahead of the convoy. After & thorough high recon drop down to 500 ft and return to the convoy making your final low recon. Remember that wires are often parallel to or across roads and highways. Reconnaissance by fire or likely sites is effective but should not be used unless you have contact with the advisor in the convoy and security forces on the road. Upon completing the recon, report to the convoy and orbit overhead at 1200 feet until the column moves on to the next 3 kilometers segment of the route. In the event the convoy is ambushed care must be taken in suppressing enemy fires. Ambush positions are usually very close to the road edge. When covering a convoy with a single fire team, attempt to find out their halt schedule. Your presence overhead is not as critical when they are halted in a secure village but if the convoy is moving while you are in the process of refueling the opportunity for ambush is increased. It is also possible to use an 0-1F over the convoy to call the fire team on the ground when the convoy is near a likely area of attack. This is the least desirable method, but may be necessary on long convoys when only one fire team is available.
F. Adjustment of Air Force Strikes: The adjustment of a strike by Air Force bombers is normally the job of an Air Force Forward Air Controller but in many cases the FAC will not be available and the strike will have to be directed by the commander of the armed reconnaissance element that located the target.
1. Target Acquisition: One of the most common missions for armed helicopters is the visual recon. One of the reasons for this mission is to locate targets for Air Force strikes. The procedure for conducting the recon to locate the target is exactly the same as discussed in the visual recon section of this chapter.
2. Adjustment of the strike: In order to properly adjust an air strike you must have dependable radio contact. For this reason try to get at least two radios on common frequencies. Next insure that the leader of the Air Force fighters has both or you and your wingman in sight. (It will often be necessary to state that you are flying a helicopter as many Air Force pilots have worked only with Army fixed-wing -spotters in the past). Once contact has been established you can mark the target with either rockets or smoke, depending on the target ground situation. If rockets are used it is best to WP war heads. If you are marking a point target one mark will be sufficient, but if it is a target in depth it will be necessary to mark the outer limits. Once the first bomb run has been completed the strike can be adjusted by giving a compass direction and a distance from the first strike, i.e., "Move the strike 100 meters to the northeast." Prior to the strike it will be necessary to brief the Air Force mission leader as to the disposition of friendly troops if they are present in the area and
any restrictions to fire. After the strike, it is generally required for the fire team to make a post strike recon to determine the effectiveness of the strike. This is conducted in the same manner as any other visual recon.