JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The Kiowa pilot pointed the nose of the helicopter toward the ground and began his strafing run on the targets with a .50 caliber machine gun. Circling back on the objective the pilots let loose an onslaught of rockets, striking target vehicles in the open field.
For the first time in about a decade this aerial gunnery has been conducted on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Spiva, 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment.
Lt. Col. Jay Klaus, commander of 4-6 ARS, and Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles, deputy commander I Corp, validated a range allowing helicopter pilots to qualify on gunnery tables three and four March 1.
Senior leaders validated the range by performing flyovers, range safety checks and ultimately firing live ammunition.
Tables three and four are basic air gunnery tables that all OH-58D helicopter pilots must qualify on, just as all Soldiers must qualify with their individually assigned weapons.
JBLM Range Control and I Corps recently cleared the range for operation. Miles flew in the first round of qualifications testing the range for safety and validating it for use with the weapons systems.
Having the range open for tables three and four allows the unit to focus on the more advanced gunnery tables during its time at the Yakima Training Center, said Klaus.
Ever changing Washington weather conditions and distance to training areas can cause delays and issues in movement for the Kiowa pilots.
“Yakima is a great training area but is extremely difficult logistically to uproot and get all the support personnel out to Yakima,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Laser, pilot, 4-6 ARS. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to use the range right here in our backyard.”
“Until today we always had to fly to Yakima for training,” said Spiva. “This is a huge step for JBLM getting this range opened up. It will help other units as well… This will allow units to do training out here with us supporting them.”
The range will also be a valuable training asset to the 1st Battalion, 229 Aviation Regiment, when it arrives with AH-64D Apache Longbows later this year, said Klaus.
The primary mission of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, armed reconnaissance aircraft, is to be the commander’s eyes and ears on the battlefield. Spiva said the airframes have limited attack capabilities with a .50 cal. machine gun, 2.75 inch rockets and a hellfire rocket. However, the pilots still have to be able to lay down effective fire when troops need it which is what qualifying on this range demonstrates.
For Klaus and his squadron the whole purpose for their existence is to support the soldier with a rifle that is on the ground. They are able to integrate their fire systems into the fight and relay vital intelligence to the ground commander because of the ability to maneuver around the battlefield with more ease than the ground troops, said Klaus.
“When we are able to take our weapon systems and support the soldier on the ground that’s when I get charged; that’s the reason I fly,” said Klaus.
With the range fully operational, the 4-6 ARS will be able to spend more time supporting units on JBLM as well as practicing its gunnery tables.