News: Viper pilots strike hard in AVCATT training
Story by Sgt. William Begley
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. – Several AH-64 Apache helicopter pilots from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade took part in a virtual training exercise at the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT) on Hunter Army Airfield March 6. The training was one more part of the Situational Training Exercise that the Viper battalion has been participating in this week.
The planned mission simulated a deliberate attack scenario designed to strike at the heart of the enemy threat in the rear of their operations. In recent years, Army Aviation’s focus has been on counterinsurgency operations. As we turn our attention towards the decisive action threat, our aircrews are refining tactics, techniques and procedures that will allow them to engage and defeat a near-peer enemy.
“The idea is to go into enemy territory and take the fight to them,” said 1st Lt. Michael Arcangelo, platoon leader, Company C, 1-3 ARB. Arcangelo planned the deep attack scenario the pilots flew.
As with the Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE) held just two days earlier, the mission was designed with the lack of an established forward operating base or airfield. That meant the pilots had to fly to the objective, complete the mission and fly home on only the fuel that was in their tanks.
“It’s a change from the asymmetric warfare that we have been fighting," Arcangelo continued.
During 3rd CAB’s recent deployment to Afghanistan, pilots were not as concerned with air defense systems emplaced by the enemy and would fly higher profiles to avoid the threat of small-arms fire. In the deliberate attack scenario, air defense systems will be active on the battlefield and will require lower, more conservative flight profiles to avoid detection.
“It takes a lot of skill to fly a helicopter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Freeze, Brigade Aviation Mission Survivability Officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd CAB. “Manipulating the targeting system is a perishable skill. You have to constantly practice tracking targets to maintain that skill.”
During the training scenario, Freeze, a 19-year veteran helicopter pilot and instructor pilot as well, was playing the role of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset. In short, he provided the intelligence from his virtual unmanned aerial vehicle, the eyes in the sky.
“The AVCATT is a great tool. It allows you to test the decision making capabilities of your pilot commands and your air mission commanders,” said Freeze. “Without spending the money in actual blade hours, it allows the pilots to go out on the mission and make all the mistakes they want, and be able to learn from them with no real consequence.”
Army Capt. Michelle Brady, commander, Company C, 1-3 ARB, was the officer in charge of the STX mission in the AVCATT, but acted more in an observer controller and trainer capacity. She stated that while it is important to save money, there are other benefits more valuable.
“It’s not just about saving money,” said Brady. “There’s something that’s a lot more important than money: the ability to learn to deal with the threat. We can’t just go out and train to engage a real enemy threat with these aircraft, so we use the AVCATT to simulate that training, and it’s invaluable.”