From the "Saudi Spearhead"
Issue 6 - April 15, 1991
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BELOW, full text of article:


ANALYSIS by Spearhead Staff Editors

The video-tape plays back in a grainy black-and-white, a harsh white moonscape over which crawl the dim shapes of Iraqi vehicles, barely visible at nearly five kilometers despite the magnification of the light-gathering and Forward-Looking Infared lenses.

One by one, the square box in the scope narrows onto the moving target, blinking as it frames the vehicle to indicate laser lock-on. A few seconds later, the screen flares white before clearing to reveal a black mushroom cloud, all that's left of the Iraqi armored crewmen who thought they could sneak away from Kuwait and live to fight again. Within minutes, dozens of tanks lay destroyed while the rest of the column is immobile, abandoned by drivers whose only thought is to be someplace where these things no longer happen.

If you didn't know it was real, you'd swear it was science fiction -- a scene from H.G. Wells as the Martians use their awesomely advanced technology to render earthly defenders powerless against an onslaught that could be stopped only by an act of God.

Perhaps Saddam Hussein really believed that his version of Allah would come to his aid. It was not an opinion widely shared by Iraqi troops, many of whom surrendered under the relentless hammering. And it was not a prospect widely feared by Spearhead crewmen of the 2nd Battalion, 227th Combat Aviation Brigade, who administered the punishment to the Iraqi armored columns.

Yet short of abandoning their armored vehicles and walking home, an option many Iraqis chose, only divine intervention offered escape from the battalion's Apaches. It is a lesson that should be well heeded by the detractors of Army aviation.

The AH-64 has long been attacked as too expensive, too unreliable, and too vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. Combat aviation advocates should listen to these complaints, certainly, and to the worries of ground crew who spend long, hard hours keeping the Apache airborne. Anything can be improved.

But at the same time, critics should now realize that one $11 million Apache can, and did, destroy $15 million of enemy armor in a single sortie. They should also note that the extra flying hours the helicopters logged during Desert Shield and Desert Storm actually seemed to improve the Apache's reliability. Gaskets and other key points stay lubricated under continuous use, but tend to dry and crack under the occasional use of garrison duty, thereby increasing maintenance and failure rates during peacetime.

It's also true that very few, if any, Apaches were lost to ground fire despite operating beyond air cover during critical missions throughout the war. In fact, Army Apaches from the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, conducted the first strike of the Air War by taking out Iraqi early warning radars deep inside far Western Iraq. Both sites were destroyed within 30 seconds, allowing waves of Air Force strike aircraft to penetrate undetected in Desert Storm's first bombing missions. The Apaches returned without a single loss to hostile fire or to mechanical problems.

While considering cost, critics should consider how expensive it would have been had American tankers and infantry been forced to wade into entrenched Iraqi armor without the benefit of Apaches to locate and hit enfiladed positions from above and from behind. They should wonder about the expense Iraqis could have inflicted had they not abandoned their vehicles in horror at the unseen and unstoppable devastation the choppers inflicted upon their columns. They should remember that cost is not only dollars spent, but also lives lost.


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