Attack Friday!

  • Jun 30, 2014 3:55am GMT

What better way to end a week of office work? How about going flying in a bunch of attack helicopters.

A few months ago I was afforded the opportunity to observe what Marine Corps aviators call a "max launch" from one of the best seats available - the inside of a UH-1Y "Venom" (aka. the "Super Huey"). The aircraft was owned by Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 - "Scarface", assigned to Marine Air Group (MAG) 24, based on the Marine Corps Air Facility Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

The MAG's mission was simple. Launch as many of it's "up" rotary-wing aircraft as maintenance could provide, conduct a tactical training mission, refuel at a mobile FARP, conduct a large force rendezvous, and bring all (15) aircraft back to KBay.

I was in the third aircraft in the first of three mixed divisions (4-ship) of Scarface skids. As the pictures and videos illustrate our division launched into a beautiful Hawaiian morning with some scattered mountain clouds and a light breeze out of the east, bound for strike training on the island of Moloka'i after crossing the 26 mile wide Kaiwi channel.

Once we were "feet dry" on Moloka'i we began our tactical training, conducting simulated attacks in vicinity of the town of Maunaloa. We practiced maneuvers for 4-ship simultaneous attacks as well as coordinated section (2-ship) attacks and single-ship attacks. It's not a fast-moving event but there are certainly a lot of aircraft striving to stay in close proximity of each other. When the division splits up each section uses counter-rotating race track shaped patterns, as briefed, to work the target area and deconflict the two flights. Some of our attack profiles use a low altitude approach to a pop-up point where the attacking aircraft can quickly climb above terrain we are using to mask ourselves, acquire the target and commence a diving attack. While the Huey's and Cobras both employ forward firing rockets, guns and missiles both aircraft also have the ability to apply gun fire well off the nose of the aircraft. The Cobras have a three-barrel 20mm cannon on a chin turret that is slaved to the pilot's helmet, and the Huey has various options of door guns manned by enlisted aircrew on both the left and right sides. The Huey, quite literally has the ability to apply fires in 360 degrees - which comes in handy as Huey aircrew can provide support covering their flights departure from a target area by applying suppressive fire from either the 4000 rds/min, 7.62mm GAU-17 minigun or the GAU-21 .50 caliber machine gun as their flight egresses the target area. All pilots and aircrew practice the basic skills of maintaining mutual support between individual aircraft and sections within the division by keep their heads on a swivel, and scanning their briefed sectors. The deal is you keep one eye on your wing-man, one eye on the look out for someone trying to shoot you (or your wingman), and two eyes on the target when it's time to go trigger-down.