All Persian Gulf operations are staged from U.S.
Naval vessels or Mobile Sea Base platforms. Subsequently all
aircrews were Deck Landing Qualified (DLQ) aboard the Helicopter
Landing Trainer (HLT 514) and aboard naval ships. Initial DLQ was
conducted at Pensacola, Florida. Aviators were required to perform
day, night, NVG field deck landing practice and day, night, NVG
landings to the single spot deck. Aircrewman and maintainence
personnel later participated in additional water survival training
(Deep Water Survival) at Pensacola. Upon conclusion of this training
the first armed aircraft were delivered. Academic Gunnery training
began in December of 1987 with live firing in January of 1988.
Weapons training included, day and NVG qualification over land and
overwater. Crews qualified in .50 caliber machine gun and 2.75 FFAR
with flechette, HE, and submunition warheads mated to Mark 66 Mod 2
motors. All weapons training included academics with the assistance
of military instructors and manufacturers technical representatives.
After completing captive flight devices aviators gualified with live
missiles in both singer and hellfire systems. Aircraft were
special eqiupped with:
1. Loran C navigation device.
2. AN/APR 44 Radar warning device.
3. AN/ALQ 144 IR Jamming device.
4. SAR caving ladder, extraction rope.
5. TACAN navigation set.
6. Audio/Visual Tape Recorder.
7. Software integration for overwater applications.
These additional systems and devices required academic training and
because some systems were off the shelf modifications training by
trial and error became necessary. As aircraft integration neared
completion aircrews were finishing individual skill training.
Personnel were joined into teams of five aviators. Team
training started in January of 1988. Subject matter experts with
actual mission experience were instrumental in guiding team tactical
development. Aircrews performed simulated missions from actual naval
vessels in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Virginia. Threat
assessment classes were taught and special warfare craft were used to
increase realism. Army Aviators learned to operate their aircraft in
a maritime environment and to integrate with U.S. Naval forces. This
period also served as a trials for AH-58D multi-aircraft operations
from single spot naval decks. AH-58D teams flew in coordination with
shipboard Combat Information Center (CIC) and under Naval aircraft
Light Airborne Multi-purpose Systems (LAMPS). LAMPS or CIC served as
radar coverage agencies and were used to acquire contacts of interest
and vector AH-58D's. AH-58D's provided additional acquisition
capability but were primarily used to identify and report important
information under night time conditions. AH-58D's became extensions
of the platforms they were deployed aboard and complimented organic
weapon systems. Certification or teams was conducted upon completion
of training. Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization in
cooperation with Subject Matter Experts completed initial
certifications. Each team trained in this manner and completed a
certification prior to deployment.
The first team deployed to a Mobile Sea Base (MSB) on 18
February 1988. Two MSB's were in existence at that time. There was
significant difference in size of platforms though operations were
largely similar. Both platforms were manned primarily by Navy and
Marine personnel and commanded by a Naval commander. All operations
by Army aircraft were in conjunction with MSB support assets.
Mission planning was conducted by the flight leader. This included
interface with MSB assets. Briefings were conducted in the presence
of the MSB commander, special boat units, medical corpmen, aircrews,
maintenance team leader, and intelligence personnel. Briefings were
thorough and covered all aspects of the mission to be performed.
during the hours of darkness aircrews, aircraft and maintenance
personnel were on constant alert. Typical periods of operations
included a full fuel load flight before and after midnight in the
MSB's sector of operation. Sometimes multiple sorties were flown as
situation dictated. Aircraft were kept loaded but not armed prior to
missions. Aircraft were always hangared by day and kept on deck at
night when situation permitted (Often on FFG's or DDG's the deck must
be cleared immediately after recovery to allow landing and hangaring
of LAMPS aircraft). Aircrews could launch aircraft fully loaded in
as little as 3-4 minutes when aircraft were on the deck. Two
hangared aircraft aboard an FFG could be pushed out, blades unfolded,
armed, cranked and launched in as little as 8-10 minutes. Pilots and
enlisted flight teams worked together to accomplish these drills.
Cross training between crewmembers and maintenance flight teams was
necessary and normal operation. Enlisted flight team personnel could
perform many functions normally only done by one man with appropriate
MOS. Both aircraft were staged from the MSB's and FFG's alike. Only
one platform had a multi-spot deck and it became necessary to stage
both aircraft from single spot decks in the interest of operational
parameters. During conditions of high sea states or high winds only
one aircraft would be staged. Once aircraft were airborne they would
perform NVG linkup. Tow aircraft were always flown. The lead
aircraft would normally perform reconnaissance, surveillance and
suppressive fire when necessary, except when performing deliberate
attacks. Formation would normally be right or left echelon in a
traveling overwatch type technique. Separation between aircraft
depended on flight conditions and threat assessment. Crews could
perform formation flight at 3-5 rotor disks separation if the
situation dictated. Maintaining flight integrity was imperative and
mutual security depended highly on this factor. Teams operated in a
similar manner to typical aeroscouts principals with the advantages
of armament and thermal image sensing. AH-58D teams were expected to
perform attack roles. Procedures were developed for varying threats,
situations and weapons. Procedures were dictated by actual or
perceived threats which motivated keen interest by aircrew members.
Many control measures existed for teams operating in the Persian
Gulf. Military and civil ships transited areas of operations. Many
countries had territorial waters close to transit areas. A declared
war zone "Exclusion Zone, The Line of Death" existed and split the
Gulf from North to South. Rules of Engagement were detailed and
Navigation was primarily accomplished by radar vectoring.
Teams were capable of point to point navigation by Loran C. This
capability was used primarily in the Northern Persian Gulf where good
signal reception existed. FFG crews were forced to home to the
mother ship by Tacan signal. This feature was not reliable because
ships turned off Tacan (Father) in vulnerable areas (Silkworm
envelopes). AH-58D's were equipped with inertial nav systems but
were subject to accuracy error from false Doppler return in overwater
applications. Contacts were always approached as hostile. Each
contact was recorded through a VCR linked to the thermal image.
Voice reporting was conducted via CIC or LAMPS which was data linked
to CIC. Contacts were numbered, marked on radar and specific
information provided. AH-58D's provided defense, screening and
attack capability to their assigned vessel or convoy. Recovery to
the MSB's were multi-ship landings. To FFG's and DDG's multi-ship
landings were conducted when situation permitted. All recoveries
were with NVG's. This required a high degree of aviator proficiency
especially during frequent periods of poor visibility, low
illumination and high sea states. Rearm and refuel procedures could
be conducted hot or cold. Maintenance personnel staged additional
ammunition for contingencies. Thorough debriefings were conducted to
critique flight procedures, commander's were informed of all
During Persian Gulf deployments Task Force 118 personnel have
endured high stress, long separations, harsh flight conditions,
cramped living quarters and real threats. They have performed beyond
expectations. Tactics have been validated from real use. The
importance placed on trainup and individual task proficiency could
not have understated because our lives depend on it. The level of
startup experience in related airframes proved essential to success.
As with all aviation operations lessons learned and passed on and
self improvement are perpetually necessary. A constructive
atmosphere of self-criticism refines operations. All of Army
Aviation may benefit from the experiences gained as a result of
Operation Prime Chance II. Many further applications may be derived
from airframe developments. The potential of Task Force 118 and the
AH-58D has yet to be realized. The organization in its present
confiquration is capable of ARMED RECONNAISSANCE TODAY.
Michael P. Fyfe
This article was written by CW2 Fyfe and placed in the Unit History book as one of the few unclassified documents that details the initial formation and
train-up of Task Force 118.
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Last Updated 19 July 1997