Aircraft Ground Forces are designed for air support of troops while the destruction of the land, mainly protecting them from small moving objects and enemy, at the forefront and in tactical depth. They are also intended for destroying enemy aircraft landings; landing their own aircraft; for the aerial reconnaissance; mining areas from the air and performing other tasks to shield the troops. The helicopter has supported the Army with the necessary mobility in the battlefield in the hills of Korea, the forests of Vietnam, the old European streets, and the Iraq deserts. The helicopter in the Army Aviation has gone through a long history of evolvement and has proven itself repeatedly by developing new decisions to altering operational, tactical, and strategic situations adding plenty of innovations. Army aviation evolved as the ground and component of a country’s land forces. The essay describes Army Aviation consisting of helicopters, which perform actions like liaison, air assault, search, transportation, and rescue, and operate under the land force commander’s operational purview to win the separate battles as wellas the entire war.
Types of Helicopters and their Functions
The aviation units are composed of the fighting transport, military transport, assault, and special helicopters. Air combats are aimed at the destruction of enemy aircraft, fighting off the enemy aircraft attack, and forcing the foes to fail the task. Helicopters play an essential role as “they provide the supported commander a highly mobile and lethal armor, personnel, and materiel destruction capability during the day and night.” The flying machines assist the entire Army promoting the opportunity to observe the territory.
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Particular military flights are conducted “…for medical evacuation, combat, troop transport, combat and logistical support, and to help re-supply ground forces.” Aviation units of the Army Aviation take part in battle operations and perform the following tasks of fire: the destruction of tanks, artillery, and anti-tank items; the defeat of the enemy helicopters in the air; the destruction of air (sea) landing. They also damage airborne units and enemy, provide flight amphibious transport helicopters and aviation support of the fighting troops. Moreover, helicopter gunships may independently seek and ruin objects near the fighting members.
Transportation and landing helicopters have such tasks: making tactical and operational-tactical air landings; ensuring maneuvers and the soldiers in the battle; exploring landing and other groups to capture and destroy significant objects of the enemy. Besides, they provide the transportation of personnel and vehicles, convey different items to the forcing water areas. The helicopters are used for the evacuation of the wounded and sick as well as the troops after their tasks behind enemy lines.
Reconnaissance helicopters perform certain assignments to obtain the needed data: aerial reconnaissance; air radiation and chemical reconnaissance; air engineering exploration; aerial weather reconnaissance. “By conducting armed reconnaissance and security missions with real–time, sensor–to-shooter linkages, Army aviation can rapidly confirm the enemy’s intentions, disrupt his tempo, deny his freedom of action, and get into his decision cycle.” The reconnaissance flying machines assist the Army in strategic monitoring of the enemy’s plans and actions as well as in disrupting them. The exceptional helicopters perform the following tasks: adjusting artillery fire; mining from the air; providing command, control and communication in the battle; searching for the crews of aircraft that crashed.
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Aviation Operational Principles
The planning and execution of the mission are driven by applying universal principles which exert and go beyond the postulates of war and the doctrines of Army functioning. Aviation operates in the ground regime.
These general postulates are as follows:
1. “Aviation is a component of the combined arms team, not the air component of the U.S. Army.” This fundamental principle elucidates the role of aviation as a constituent of land power.
2. “Aviation’s primary mission is to fight the land battle and to support ground operations.” The aviation consists of soldiers, but not the pilots; it helps achieve success through an amalgamation of mobility, reconnaissance, and firepower, which are unparalleled in the warfare of land.
3. “Aviation greatly enhances the commander’s ability to apply four fundamental principles of war—maneuver, mass, surprise, and economy of force.”
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Characteristics of Tactical Air Landings and their Tasks
In modern warfare, the role of offensive actions immeasurably increases. The success will depend on the ability of units and the Army in general to quickly transfer effort from one direction to another causing unexpected blows on the enemy, not only from the front but also in its rear. Such attacks are possible due to the application of tactical air landings. Their sudden swift action disrupts the enemy defense system in violation of command and creates favorable conditions for its defeat. Tactical air landing called combined unit is planted in the rear of the enemy from the air to perform tactical combat mission. “The Combined Arms approach seeks to integrate different combat units, arms and weapons systems into one cohesive unit in order to maximize the combat effectiveness of the whole.” The Army in this approach wants to be efficient in a vast range of operations.
For focusing the tactical units of the air landing, loading of troops and military equipment in the helicopters assigned the source area for the landing strip passage of the tranches, which is the main and reserve area of landing, also called landing site. Zoom source depends on the location of units and formations. “The transport helicopter pilots and the assault ground forces seemed to like the suppressive fires on the landings zones, as it disrupted the enemy and prevented them from mass firing on the assault helicopters and troops.” Every detail, even the lights, can aid the Army in their operations against the enemy in reaching the victory.
Successful use of the actions of troops in military operations is possible only if the landing immediately after performing its tasks behind enemy lines connects with the soldiers that are coming from the front. This action requires the definition of permitted landing depth, which determines the nature of the problem, of landing, the time during which it can fight independently behind enemy lines, and the average pace of the offensive front. The task of tactical air landings in the army offensive combat missions depend on the armed force and plan operations as well as the nature of the construction of the enemy. “Army aviation and tactical air assets can maneuver into the depth of the enemy to weaken his ability and will to fight.” During the offensive, the armies decide to connect a series of sequential tasks: break defensive lines, force water obstacles on the move, drive the oncoming battles pursuit of the retreating enemy encirclement, and finally, destruct certain groups. Therefore, tactical air landings perform various tasks.
The defeat of the enemy with the help of nuclear weapons mainly implies the usage of strategic nuclear strikes vehicles, aircraft, missile troops, and artillery front. The Army is assigned the task to complete the defeat of soldiers, which have suffered a nuclear attack as well as the occupation of the most important sites and areas in the territory of the enemy in short time. This offensive continuity is essential for keeping the initiative in the hands of the attackers. “Destructive effects of nuclear weapons required the Army to disperse its forces into units small enough to avoid a nuclear strike.” The Army has to be able to focus rapidly, demolish the enemy, and disband one more time before the enemy is able to respond with a nuclear attack.
When conducting the military operations with conventional weapons, the defeat of the enemy is running sequentially by applying decisive defeat of the main groups of the foes’ first echelon. Moreover, the use of aircraft landings may facilitate in addressing the challenges that can arise after the attack as well as capturing of the enemy troops that base at the forefront or in the development of offensive. Tactical air landing operations through enemy lines is conducted at the time when the part of the first echelon captures the battalion area of defense, which guarantees a successful attack. The main task of tactical air landings in the conditions of combat, while using both conventional and nuclear weapons, could be the destruction of a nuclear attack, command posts, and other objects of the enemy. The other assignments include capturing and maintenance of airfields, parts of roads, ferries, bridges, mountain passes in the tactical depth of defense.
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Technical Development of Army Aviation in Military Conflicts
The experience of the war art shows that there are no local wars or armed conflicts today where the Army aviation would not have participated. As a result, the helicopters tend to increase their role in the armed struggle, which, undoubtedly, significantly affects the nature of combat use of military aircraft. The use of army aviation in local wars began with the Korean War (1950-1953) when “officers first used helicopters for light observation and transportation.” The helicopters, along with aircrafts, were utilized mainly for the evacuation of wounded and later for aerial reconnaissance, strike aircraft guidance on ground targets correction of artillery fire, transportation of troops, ammunition, materiel evacuation units, and communications. However, as means of fire support of ground forces, helicopters were not used.
The war in Vietnam (1959 – 1973) was characterized by a significant expansion of the use of helicopters and the increasing number of tasks they completed. In Vietnam, the first large-scale helicopters were used to perform the following tasks: the transfer of cargo and troops from ships to shore, from supply bases and ports of discharge to places of deployment; the exploration of areas, landing sites, firing positions, air patrol bases in areas, ports, garrisons. These flying machines were also applied in communications and the areas of operations, in supporting management software as aerial command posts, communications intermediate nodes as well as in providing engineering and construction work. During 1965 – 1969, with the help of helicopters 40,571 people were rescued, including 55% of the crews that catapulted during combat tasks. “The Vietnam War served to build the role of the helicopter in warfare, but also caused the need for new innovations in the aviation community. This leads directly to the second case in helicopter innovation, the development of the anti-tank helicopters.” Capabilities of helicopters as anti-tank weapons have increased significantly with the advent of anti-tank guided missiles “Tou”, which first were used in February 1971 in Southern Laos. The application of the new type of weapons helped to develop new ways of combat. The most efficient tactic ambushed when helicopters came to the area at extremely low altitude in the background of the area and waited for the time of the attack.
The chief objectives of the use of military aircraft in Afghanistan in 1979-1989 were: aviation support of the fighting troops as well as the rear columns on the move, assault of aircraft landings, and sabotage groups. Additionally, the Army Aviation conducted aerial and engineering reconnaissance; stroke sites identified by the enemy; mined the border trails and passed their bombing and destruction; delivered ammunition and materiel troops, etc. The chief objects of the operations were fighting bases, field artillery, the mortars on positions and some armored vehicles, caravans with weapons and ammunition, areas of mountain roads, bridges and trails in the heights. Tactics of the units’ actions and tactical helicopters crews altered with changing tactics of the enemy. The flights were conducted only in groups consisting of at least a pair of helicopters. Crews performed vigorous maneuvering as regards to the height, speed, and direction. In some areas, such maneuvering was performed in the flight directly – from departure to landing.
The armed conflict in the Persian Gulf in 1990-1991, where the army was equipped with different types of helicopters, a significant number of which were antitank, adequately demonstrated the increasing role of army aviation in modern combat. In the Chechen war during 1999-2000, Army Air Force used a helicopter with high intensity as one of the most important means of actions of ground troops in the performance of a broad range of tasks. It made about 40,000 flights within the independent conduct of hostilities and for the support of the earth soldiers. In the system of complex fire destruction of the enemy and ensuring the implementation of maneuver troops, Army aviation played a significant role as well. Aviation units together with artillery fulfilled from 70 to 90 % of all fire tasks.
Operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 showed a significant increase in the role of Army Aviation, which was utilized in the whole spectrum of military tasks: the fire support of Tactical Battle Groups, violation management, doing all kinds of intelligence, the support and cover of columns, etc. The basis for the further development of Army Aviation will also use the unmanned aerial vehicles. The chief objectives of drones are the exploration of the areas, detection of the enemy, laser-guided missiles, and the transmission of information on control points. The use of drones provides the opportunity to receive information in real time. In modern wars, the advantage of obtaining information in real time allows the Army Aviation units to conduct the preparations and more efficient operations in order to destroy the enemy with the minimum loss of personnel, helicopters, and time. Interaction of drones with helicopter units is the next stage of performance characteristics of the Army Aviation.
Therefore, the role of the Army Aviation in the military operation is significant, as it supports commanders and other ground units in achieving victory by taking advantage of the helicopters. Those flying machines’ chief assignments include air support of troops, destroying enemy aircraft landings, aerial reconnaissance, transportation, mining areas from the air, and other tasks to ensure the troops. The most crucial role of the tactical air landings in conditions of combat, which used both conventional and nuclear weapons for the destruction of a nuclear attack, was in command posts and other objects of the enemy. The air landings captured and maintained the airfields, parts of roads, ferries, bridges, mountain passes, and delayed approach of enemy reserves. Korean War was the first one which significantly affected the nature of combat use of military aircraft.
The role of the aviation increased and reached its pick during the Afghanistan War, where helicopters operated as fire support, and violation management of the enemy as well as did all kinds of intelligence, support and cover of columns.