Helicopters In Irregular Warfare: Capabilities, Challenges, And Missed Opportunities
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLLEGE, AIR UNIVERSITY MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE United States
Pagination or Media Count:
The use of helicopters in irregular warfare IW has a history as long as the helicopter itself. Combat and combat support roles for helicopters conducting missions as diverse as attack, insertionextraction, supply, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, command and control, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exceeded the capabilities of light fixed-wing aircraft, eventually replacing them in U.S. service. The author seeks to illustrate the use of helicopters in IW through studying historical employment during conflicts in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The best employment of helicopters in IW requires appreciation of the limitations of and threats to helicopters, the lack of doctrine for their employment in IW, their limited numbers relative to demand, and the dangers of the over-use of helicopters in IW. The author proposes that highly effective tactics, techniques, and procedures TTPs for tactical mobility in execution have been ignored by U.S. regular forces, with the exception of the U.S. Marine Corps Aero Scout program in Iraq 2006-2008. The successful TTPs of this program have not been captured in formal doctrine, however, and are unlikely to be repeated in future conflicts. This omission ignores the lessons of history and unnecessarily displaces risk onto ground forces.