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    Hellfire missiles in OIF -- Developing an ABL for the Contemporary Operating Environment (COE)

    Hellfire Missiles in Operation Iraqi Freedom"Developing an Ammunition Basic

    Courtesy Photo | A chart detailing fired vs. failed Hellfire missles for the 25th Combat Aviation...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    25th Combat Aviation Brigade

    By Col. A.T. Ball and Chief Warrant Officer Rusty Norris
    25th Combat Aviation Brigade

    TIKRIT, Iraq-- Upon arrival at Combat Operating Base Speicher, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) inherited an aging, war weary conglomeration of hellfire missiles. These missiles had been subjected to thousands of flight hours, intense weather conditions and extreme handling. In fact many of them would have qualified for Senior Army Aviator wings, if not Master Wings! Until this conflict, the Hellfire was considered to be a weapon completely dedicated to destroying armor. The mere mention of its use in this fight normally resulted in subtle fears of fratricide or rumors of over kill.

    Due to advances in technology and improved tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to effectively harness these advances, this perception will change. In fact, the Hellfire missile is exactly the type of weapon Army Aviation should utilize in this type of conflict. Its precision limits collateral damage, its flexibility provides the commander with weaponeering options, and most importantly its range provides greater protection to the crew, recognizing that even the most unsophisticated insurgent can bring down one of our multi-million dollar aircraft with a heavy machine gun in a bongo truck. Commanders should embrace this weapon as a "go to" option in counter-insurgency operations.

    This article covers some of the steps the 25th CAB has taken during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006-2008 to improve utilization of the Hellfire missile in the COE by articulating the needs of the war fighting commander to the Army's material developers and then implementing innovative TTPs for their use on the battlefield. After approximately 500 missiles fired, and hundreds of enemy killed and wounded, the results speak for themselves.

    Crazy Ivan (Missile Firing Anomalies)

    After 2 months in combat, it became apparent the missiles we inherited were displaying some "unusual" characteristics. Approximately 25% of the missiles malfunctioned, manifesting as near vertical dives, immediate "moon seeking" climbs, "corkscrew" spiraling, and other less than desirable flight profiles. All of these anomalies occurred immediately after launch with missiles that tested fine. The Missile Data Firing Report (MDFR) is the Commander's tool to address these problems. Most of the "experts" within our community felt that these problems were occurring as a direct result of the "captive carry" time on the missiles. However, there was no empirical data readily available to substantiate these suspicions. The 25th CAB now provides "captive carry" time and MDFRs to the material developers. As the stockpiled missiles were consumed and replaced, the failure rate began to drop steadily, finally stabilizing at around 2%. Fluctuations in these figures only occurred when older missiles were pulled out of the ammunition holding area.

    Changing TTPs

    Recent advances in technology would also play an integral part in the 25th CAB's demand for Hellfire missiles of different types and increased quantities. The integration of manned and unmanned Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition (RSTA) platforms and the fielding of the Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight (M-TADS) provided new opportunities for the employment of the Hellfire missiles. The standoff and stealth provided by the RSTA platforms allowed the CAB scout and attack platforms to engage the enemy from increased ranges with Hellfires. Similarly, the fielding of the M-TADS gave the CAB's AH-64D Apache helicopters the ability to find and destroy the enemy with Hellfires at ranges well beyond those of the Longbow's cannon and rockets. These factors, combined with capable and aggressive aircrews, increased the demand for Hellfires.

    The increased use of the Hellfire by the CAB's aircraft revealed some issues with the missile. Often, aircrews or unmanned aerial systems operators found themselves acquiring improvised explosive device (IED) emplacers or insurgents in the open, at long range. On several occasions, aircrews closed to within cannon or rocket range, only to see the enemy scatter and flee. This TTP resulted in numerous missed opportunities and allowed the enemy to live to fight another day. To counter, aircrews began engaging these targets with Hellfire missiles in an effort to avoid losing the initiative. However, since the Hellfire missiles we fired were specifically designed to defeat armor, there were some very serious shortcomings. These missiles, when used against personnel, did not achieve the desired results. Aircrews found that if a group of 10 insurgents were targeted with an AGM-114K or F, more than likely several of them would get away. A new type of Hellfire was needed to support engagements like these. The AGM-114K2A, with a perforated metal sleeve surrounding its warhead, seemed appropriate. Unfortunately it existed in very few numbers.

    Develop a Realistic and Sustainable Ammunition Basic Load (ABL)

    In order to be effective in combat, every unit from the infantry company to the combat aviation brigade must have a sustainable ABL with the appropriate types and quantities of munitions. In this conflict, we had defaulted to a "whatever they leave behind" mentality when it comes to the CAB ABL. Units simply fell in on what their predecessors left behind. Unfortunately, the enemy doesn't remain the same and our TTPs, weaponry and priorities should change accordingly. This simple fact demands that every unit have an ABL allowing the commander to weaponeer appropriately for the target set he faces.

    The most powerful weapon a commander has when building his ABL is the Operational Needs Statement (ONS). Some are written in order to identify a need for a new weapon, while others spotlight the need for weapons/munitions that already exist. In either case, they are the tool the commander uses to inform the right people of his warfighting requirements. The 25th CAB submitted numerous Operational Needs Statements in the first few months of OIF 06-08. These simple requests resulted in the acquisition of numerous November model hellfire missiles, the fielding of the AGM-114K2A, and additional Hellfire quantities to conduct our fight.

    When the 25th CAB assumed the mission in Multi-National Division-North (MND-N), it inherited 138 serviceable missiles. The vast majority were Foxtrot models, a missile primarily designed to defeat armor. However, there have been hundreds of engagements against personnel, vehicles, buildings and various other "soft" targets. Compounding the problem was the fact that expenditure rates in previous rotations were such that no Required or Supply Control Rates (RSR/CSR) were established for them. There was simply no real concern generated about the number of missiles in theater because so few had been fired at the enemy that the overwhelming opinion in theater was that the CAB would never use what we had on hand. With 84 aircraft, configured to carry up to 156 missiles, there were simply not enough to go around. It quickly became apparent that some changes to the CAB's ABL must be made.

    The first step towards fixing this problem was to decide on standardized aircraft configurations. The standardized configurations were based on aircraft performance, ammunition availability, and most importantly the target set faced. Once a standardized configuration was determined, it was easy to distribute the missiles on hand appropriately. Unfortunately, the limited quantities and missile types on hand did not allow the commander the ability to service the target set faced within the CAB's battle space.

    The 25th CAB worked hand in hand with higher HQs and agencies like Multi-National Force-Iraq, HQDA G-3 Aviation, Project Manager – Joint Attack Munition Systems (PM-JAMS) and Directorate of Training and Doctrine (DOTD) to get the right types and quantities to the warfighter. Operational Need Statements (ONS) were submitted and quickly these entities "energized" the institutional part of the Army to address the needs of the commander in the field. 25th CAB, through the use of the ONS, acquired these missiles in record time due to the diligence of those staffers, HQs and agencies that jumped aboard to assist. The CAB submitted an ONS for K2A missiles on Jan. 19, 2007 and the first engagement with insurgents confirmed KIA due to a K2A missile occurred on July 2, 2007.

    The Bottom Line

    The Hellfire missile has entered into a new era of employment and utility due to the fielding of the N and K2A missiles. No longer is it a weapon solely dedicated to destroying massed enemy armor. During the previous four years there have been more advancements in the Hellfire design than in the preceding 20 years of its existence. These changes only occurred because commanders and air crews saw a requirement and energized the appropriate mechanisms in our Army to address these needs. Commanders and air crews alike can now embrace the Hellfire as a primary weapon system in the COE. They must also continue to provide real time feedback to the institutional Army so that our material developers meet their future requirements.



    Date Taken: 08.13.2007
    Date Posted: 08.13.2007 14:48
    Story ID: 11789
    Location: TIKRIT, IQ

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