Attack helicopter employment in the COIN fight

To save the Mirage F1 thread for things pointy and French I figured I’d start this thread. When I have some time tonight to tomorrow I’ll add some additional thoughts.

Also I am very curious if this thread will be derailed by a F1 discussion :wink:

:dizzy: Mod Edit: Time stream shenanigans. For the original thread, please jump here: link


Will this thread be derailed by F1 discussion

@discobot fortune

:crystal_ball: Very doubtful

Looks like we’re good :wink:

Hi! To find out what I can do, say @discobot display help.

I’m just glad you didn’t refer to ‘The French’, as that would have been dehumanizing (apparently). :rofl:

Your write-up on attack helicopter doctrine was excellent; it had me wondering what year you graduated from West Point. I know your background is in LE, but do you have some .mil in your past as well? Very well explained for us .civies, either way. Thanks for taking the time, I always enjoy reading your posts.

He did intentionally make a very specific title, so I can’t imagine it could possibly- oh look, a squirrel!


Other than sims, I no nothing about attack helicopters.

But as someone who has some familiarity the COIN fight, the only thing constructive that I can add is that I never saw them used much differently to any other airborne asset with an A2G capability. Admittedly, the majority of my interactions with any form of ‘airpower’ was calling for HELP!

@jenrick, excellent writeup. Much of it was entirely new to me and in this one area I have become increasingly nerdy. I hate GWOT both as a term and as a principal. But fortunately, with DCS we needn’t worry so much about newer techniques overshadowing the classic anti-armor and pink team doctrines. There is no functional infantry in DCS. Players (who survive) are really doing little more than plinking technicals at max missile range. I often see recently deployed infantry in DCS standing in a perfect circles just 10 meters from enemy personnel and vehicles and neither are firing at each other. It’s fun but the whole thing is a bit of a joke really.

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Yep. Awesome write-up… and succinctly sums up a whole lot of frustrations that I had with ‘airpower’ in a COIN environment. And not just airpower… Precise targeting doesn’t mean squat if you have the wrong target. Which is why I think DCS is poorly suited to accurately simulating those kind of conflicts. Dropping a few technicals around a building and calling it a mission doesn’t make it COIN warfare. Personally, I will stick with missions and campaigns that mimic peer/near peer conflict. At least that way I have a workable ROE and no real idea what is accurate or not so I can’t be judgemental… Give me a FLOT any day.

Hubris! That and it would seem the only lesson we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

Edit: “Dropping a few technicals around a building and calling it a mission doesn’t make it COIN warfare.” On second thought, it does if you can add a 50/50 tag in the mission editor for “oops, they were on our side”.

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Same here. For the same reason I would ‘call out’ newbie soldiers for referring to to the enemy as “bad guys”. It over simplified and painted as black and white what remains a very complex and nuanced situation. I would try to get across that it was inevitable that they would see bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

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I just read a book by an RAF Harrier pilot in Afghanistan that often covered just that subject (“Joint Force Harrier”) was very enlightening, even though I’ve seen plenty of documentaries from the ground side and read books by those relying on it - and suffering the consequences of it going wrong (such as “Attack State Red” and the excellent two books by Doug Beattie in Afghan.

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To comment on a few things from our F1 derailment:

Absolutely, I’m talking about the purely military aspect. The human terrain issue is a whole separate one.

Institutionally, I’d say the Army fights the previous war usually, which depending on how you want to view it was the first gulf war. Which to an extent makes sense, the conflict started as a conventionally conflict, and wasn’t projected to be a nation building counter insurgency operation.

Just a couple years of ROTC. I’m a big grognard/arm chair historian, and am in the minority of folks who read an Army FM for something other than a sleep aide.

As much as I enjoy the systems depth and flight physics of DCS, ARMA 3 does the infantry support fight so much better than DCS.

100% agreement, and to be honest I don’t think many DCS players want the ambiguity of the COIN fight.


Makes sense. Wargaming conventional wars is more fun. That’s why we leave out NBC for the most part, they take all the fun out of it even in video games. And we prefer black and white, clear cut battlespaces with defined, identifiable sides.

It’s not near as much fun to fight an enemy who may be daylighting as the chief of police while nightlighting as the leader of an insurgent cell, and that’s true in video games as well.
We players tend to cry foul when the rules of the game aren’t clearly defined for us.

ETA: I’ve often wondered in the last 15 years if the (a) military is too large, clumsy and culturally inert an organization to fight a COIN operation with a high chances of success. There’s not too many successes I can point to off the top of my head. Northern Ireland? South Africa? Philippines? (Ongoing)

-Oh look, we’re already drifting! :joy::man_facepalming:

:dizzy: Mod Edit: Time stream shenanigans. You would think that this conversation continues in the next post, but it actually continues here: link


:dizzy: Mod Edit: Time stream shenanigans. If you are feeling dizzy and wondering why you suddenly jumped back a few days after the post above this, please jump to this link to correct your timeline: link

I think so but also look at time frame this took place. Apache’s as I understand it are the eyes and ears of the Division moving up that route it was taking so Apache’s were heading up there to scout etc. Now, in today’s immediate environment, there are so many other options like reapers, predators, other drone, scout etc., etc. and now the new Apache E is much more data orientated than this particular one I’m guessing.

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In a modern IADS the higher you go the more likely you are to get swatted by a double digit SAM system. Small arms and MANPADS are lethal, but you have a better chance than trying to doge an SA-15 with an A-10.

Modern attack helo’s (we’ll go whiskey cobra’s forward) were developed to be a maneuver element versus a CAS platform, and big army peer conflict, doctrinally should be employed as such. There are very few platforms that can hide itself in terrain like and infantryman almost, fire off 8-16 ATGM’s in a matter of minutes, and redeploy tens of kilometers in a matter of minutes to do it again. Pointing an air cav battlation at an enemy motor rifle battalion and saying “kill that” is what they were designed to do. We have used them and view them as some kind of CAS or “flying artillery” due to how they have been used for the last 20 years, but that was actually using them out of their intended roll.

I have some thoughts on their employment in the COIN environment I’ll come back and add later. The short version, we in the west frequently equate a lack of technical sophistication (lack of MANPAD’s, etc) with a lack of tactical sophistication and intelligence. We have made that mistake throughout our military history, and it has cost us.


Purely IMHO, but I think another factor is the ‘military mindset’ and that the key decision makers (Generals, etc), although usually smart people who make good decisions, tend to view things through a ‘last war’ or even the war before that prism:

i.e. in this case - Attack helicopters have always been good (cold war scenarios), so attack helicopters will always be good. Not necessarily the case when some of the fundamental ‘rules’ have changed?

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I thought the scene in the “Apache Warrior” where the infantry, militia in the Iraqi city the Apaches were flying over pointing their guns up and just firing was pretty smart and organized. Showed creativity where lack of technology was present.

I couldn’t agree more. Some of the most sophisticated intelligence networks I have experience with are those of the ‘other side’. They more than made up for their lack of ‘tech’ and were very good at exploiting our (over)reliance on it.

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I’d really like to hear this: my system works for A-10,AV-8, F-16/18/15E platforms.

NATO-centric yes but I categorize things as, roughly, slow-fixed wing (think A-10), fast (AV-8) and multirole (others too but not related to this subject). It makes tasking simpler.

This is all pertaining to the past, not present day gear BTW. Think 1960-2000-ish.

I want the Apache in there but don’t have a clear picture of how to task them. I have some, but not many, references to how they were used here and there.

I always fall back to the the fact they are close to the troops; even an A-10, while it can get there faster, and stick around longer (than a Harrier/Viper/Mud Hen/Hornet), it’s still not there when things get funky. And the cycle time (fly there; break things; fly back to rearm/refuel, lather, rinse, repeat) would be longer.


Well, doctrinally they can be. They weren’t originally designed to operate out of FOBs, but FARPs. In a scenario like Team Yankee, they’d be re-arming from forward resupply teams, maybe a dozen klicks behind the line, probably not even shutting down while the folks on the ground shove new TOWs onto the racks.

Weren’t the first shots of Desert Storm fired from Apaches taking out parts of the ADA C2 network?