Thursday, March 7, 2013



Yes, is the short answer—though from the angle of the aircraft in the photo, it is rather hard to be sure. Also, that spectacular paint job is decidedly different, and not something we are used to here. More is the pity! It is extraordinarily effective.

Just in case you haven’t discovered the fact already, I am an Apache AH-64 fan and follow the aircraft with the enthusiasm of a sports fan.

“AH” stands for  “Attack Helicopter;” and though other attack helicopters certainly do exist, the AH-64, which has been significantly upgraded over the years, is widely considered to be superior to the competition.

For a great deal of the time, weapons procurement is little more than money flow for the MICC—the Military Industrial Congressional Complex—but every now and then the Pentagon gets it right, and produces a completely superb weapons system; and the Boeing manufactured Apache AH-64 is such an example. Arguably, it is over-priced—that is not my fight—but I do believe that excellence deserves a premium.

This all stems from my researching the XVIII Airborne Corps of the U.S. Army back in the mid Nineties and the Corps Commander, General Jack Keane—as he now is—insisting that I fly in an Apache in order to gain a greater understanding of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division. When generals insist—and Jack Keane was, and remains, much more than your average general—action tends to follow.

I was a civilian, but a very willing victim—I love helicopters—and I don’t think I have ever had a more enjoyable time, though I confess to feeling decidedly queasy when my rather awesome pilot, CW Ron Thompson, said: “Let’s try a few Gs”—and did just that. In fact, he didn’t do anything too outrageous—losing guests is frowned upon—but he certainly got my attention.

Later on in that flight—when I was beginning to feel cocky as opposed to plain terrified—I asked Ron would he loop the loop? He, sensibly, drew the line at that.

Incidentally, the correct way to address a warrant officer is as “Mr.” so I really should refer to Ron as “Mr. Thompson.” Warrant officers are the specialists and problem solvers of the Army. It’s an intriguing rank and extraordinary talent lies within it. I suspect much of it is untapped.

Aerobatics in a real, live helicopter are both thrilling—and absolutely terrifying. Appreciate that a fixed wing aircraft can glide even if it loses power, whereas an unpowered  helicopter has a tendency to drop like—an unpowered helicopter. Such a descent is not conducive to human survival. Hold that thought, but suspend it while you are flying.

True, you can auto-rotate if you react fast enough, but since helicopters normally fly low, you may well not have enough time to trim your speed back; or you may not be positioned correctly for your blades to have any lift. Sometimes a writer’s imagination can be a disadvantage.

But, the good news is that nothing disastrous happened—and I fell in love with the aircraft; and I have remained in love ever since. I say “in love” with both respect and irony. Can one really be in love with a machine? I’m not sure of the answer to that. Brilliant design and execution have a tendency to evoke strong feelings.

I also developed an understanding of the integration of ground and air warfare which has remained with me. Soldiers tend to be trained to stay in their lane—to do only what they are trained to do—but commonsense suggests a more holistic approach. As with being under fire, sometimes you have to experience it to understand it. Were my Apache experiences a “life event”—as a friend suggested recently? Yes, they were.

But enough of my adventures—which included flying at night, a completely surreal experience. Night is when the Apache is at its absolute deadliest. Here is the blurb on the Dutch Apache, the HAWK.

For 2013 the Apache demo helicopter received a new design. The prints can be removed quickly, so that the helicopter can be deployed to operational missions when required.

The Q-17 is a standard Dutch Apache dedicated to the demonstrations calendars for the coming 2 years. This relieves the squadron from the difficult task of finding a spare aircraft for each show.
The Hellfire racks and rocket pods are removed from the helicopter. This saves weight, enabling the Apache to speed up faster in between the individual maneuvers.

The aircraft also flies the show with a minimum amount of fuel on board. This also saves weight and allows the helicopter to accelerate faster between individual maneuvers.

For 2013 the HAWK is also equipped with AMASE pods. These are used to fire the flares during the show. These pods are normally used in Afghanistan to deceive heat-seeking missiles.

NOTE: AMASE stands for Apache Modular Aircraft Survivability Equipment.


Orso Clip Art

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