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#3311402 - 06/05/11 05:43 PM Helicopters in air to air combat  
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brownba Offline
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J-CATCH (Joint Countering Attach Helicopter)

A dedicated Army aviation unit for counter air operations; is it necessary?

I've been searching the internet for info on attack helicopters and stumbled onto a 70's experiment called J-CATCH which has some very interesting results in helo's vs jets in combat. The second link actually provides kill to loss ratios from F-15's, F-4's and A-10's for the different types of weapons used. This is before the AMRAAM so if the test was done today, perhaps the outcome would be much different. Don't know. It's interesting to note that the helicopters were only armed with guns though.

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#3460414 - 11/23/11 05:39 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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Long time ago I read that a gunship helicopter, if armed with Sidewinder, would be quite formidable in the "dogfight" era of A2A combat, in large part because it could turn to point at the enemy quicker than most fighters could.

But as you say, modern BVR missiles could eliminate that threat entirely.

Some Cobra's had carried Sidewinders, though I don't think they often bothered to. This would have made a great anti-aircraft defense system for Army armored units, since many would often be escorted by gunships anyway. And we've seen Apache's with Stinger pods. But since there's been little threat so far to helicopters being threatened by enemy fighters, they aren't carried all that often.

Last edited by Rick.50cal; 11/23/11 05:43 PM.

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#3461186 - 11/24/11 05:26 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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And in fact the pics of Apache's you've seen with Stinger launchers must only be from when they have been in their test and evaluation phases or mocked-up, as even the latest Block Longbow's aren't even equipped to launch such weapons. Fitted, yes - but launched, no. And of note, the Comanche was going to be the first helicopter in the U.S. Army (or even the whole U.S. military) inventory that had a dedicated air-to-air capability. It was able to hold 12 x Stinger's internally or a whopping 28 x Stinger's in total with the stub wings fitted!

#3461267 - 11/24/11 07:20 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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You are probably correct about the Longbow Apache. But I do seem to recall seeing a few pics or video of an older Apache actually firing a Stinger missile while in flight...probably from a static hover, onto some cheap target. I'm guessing it's more for a confirmation of launch safety for the helicopter than anything.

There was mention in the earlier tests I'd heard about, that it was more difficult to pick up IR signatures on helis at that time, because of the cooling effect of the rotors, and the distances for a jet using IR is typically further away. But that was the 1970's or so, and we all know that this would not be true of today's advanced IR seeker/trackers...the Russian Archer would likely not even need the heat from the engines at all to track a heli: the rotor tips might do the trick, and it's got a prox fuse like many today. Meaning, one heli down. Unless the heli gets a lucky shot in.

It's worth considering that the last time I checked the Pk of a Stinger, they listed it as about 25%. But that was in the late 1980's, and likely from a ground launch. I have no idea if that number has climbed, and if it would be higher from a helicopter launch.


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#3461546 - 11/25/11 04:30 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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Effective range is a real limiting factor (using IR short-range missiles from a near static launcher). Having even the occasional helo with a few manpads (or even an R-73!) does create a potentially pricklier environment for fast movers.

The few helicopter vs. helicopter kills happened in the Iran-Iraq war and involved ambushes using anti-tank missiles (often with SACLOS guidance)...

#3463523 - 11/28/11 11:46 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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Concerning Apaches, for the Japanese AH-64D, or AH-64DJP as they refer to it, Stingers are actually standard issue mission equipment. (And besides that, they have a way cooler painting scheme, just not as cool as the Israeli ones! wink )

However, one major and possibly lethal drawback coming with helicopter A2A combat is the difference in average altitudes of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. As FW AC mostly fly higher, a helo would have to point the nose up to focus/track/engage. I do know the AIM-92 has a larger sensor scan radius and the FCR can scan in a dome-shaped area but generally you would have to have a nose up orientation in a helo in a dogfight. And as you might already guess, nose up means slowing down which soon makes a helo a stationary sitting duck.

Last edited by JayPee; 11/28/11 01:25 PM.
#3464271 - 11/29/11 02:06 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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JayPee - Some good points you make!

In reply to an earlier comment regarding jet fighters having a so-called advantage with BVR missiles, bear in mind that these missiles work best with enemy aircraft at similar high altitudes with no obstacles. Helicopters would be almost on the ground in comparison, with 'clutter' and physical obstacles being in the helicopter's favor - meaning possibly no target acquisition to start with and a missile barrier, respectively.

#3464291 - 11/29/11 02:37 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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Also, jets can out-fly and out-manouvre an incoming missile, especially lighter/cheaper ones like Stingers and Starstreaks. A helo can only hope to dodge high speed highly agile A2A missiles.

My mom always told me, never start what you can't finish. So I think it's safe to conclude that potential A2A missiles mounted on helos are solely for use against other smaller helos. Which brings us to the next topic, current pacts and alliances hardly allow hardware versus hardware wars. It's basically hardware versus insurgents living in tents shooting their AKs at a hull which can withstand direct incoming 23mm. The only relative challenge the US has faced was Iraqi hardware back in '91. And even they got rolled pretty badly overnight.

It's funny actually, every documentary or digital brochure you find about Apaches and similar helos brag about how these machines can take out massive amounts of armored vehicles in seconds. However, what is required nowadays are anti-personnel tactics and machinery. Lots of modern hardware is used for different purposes than what it was initially designed for. Simply because it was designed to fight a war which never happened.

Last edited by JayPee; 11/29/11 02:44 PM.
#3465350 - 11/30/11 11:15 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: Flyboy]  
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Modern AAMs work just fine against helis. An F-15C is easily capable of picking up and classifying a helicopter that's landed, as long as the rotors are moving - from 40-50nm. Neither AMRAAM nor sidewinder had any trouble dealing with low flying helis (there's a famous blue on blue there as proof). Stingers aren't doing bad either. There's a reason why helis are mounting all manners of countermeasures, DIRCM, MAWS, and ECM suites these days ... the reason is that without their help, the modern fighter with modern AAMs will make short work of your eggbeater ... even if it's sitting on the ground.

Originally Posted By: Flyboy
JayPee - Some good points you make!

In reply to an earlier comment regarding jet fighters having a so-called advantage with BVR missiles, bear in mind that these missiles work best with enemy aircraft at similar high altitudes with no obstacles. Helicopters would be almost on the ground in comparison, with 'clutter' and physical obstacles being in the helicopter's favor - meaning possibly no target acquisition to start with and a missile barrier, respectively.


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#3466408 - 12/02/11 11:47 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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GrayGhost - Thanks for the info, but I never specified 'modern' AAMs, just so you know that I wasn't even pretending to cover the whole spectrum with my perhaps seemingly complete answer.

So as long as the rotors of a helicopter are spinning, it is possible for an AAM to lock on and act as an ASM? Cool, so that little 'quirk' in Longbow 2 where I was locking onto landed Hinds, Hips and Havocs with Stingers wasn't a game bug then!?

Also if LB2 is anything to go by, no amount of fancy DIRCM, MAWS or ECM suites will do a sh*t the good, as it's the one who first gets a missile 'off the rail' that has the complete advantage. And as a Stinger only has a range of around 5 or 6 Km, we all know how that ends up...

In any case, I'd hope that Western missiles/acquisition suites are the most advanced and that any potential Eastern enemy would be using less advanced or older generation missiles/acquisition suites that are less effective at picking out helicopters from ground clutter, etc. As long as an F-15C has an advantage, that's all that matters!

#3466995 - 12/03/11 03:50 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: Flyboy]  
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Originally Posted By: Flyboy
GrayGhost - Thanks for the info, but I never specified 'modern' AAMs, just so you know that I wasn't even pretending to cover the whole spectrum with my perhaps seemingly complete answer.

So as long as the rotors of a helicopter are spinning, it is possible for an AAM to lock on and act as an ASM? Cool, so that little 'quirk' in Longbow 2 where I was locking onto landed Hinds, Hips and Havocs with Stingers wasn't a game bug then!?


They'd still act like AAMs. AAMs can indeed have trouble hitting grounded targets, though the AIM-9X is apparently getting an A2G mode (basically you turn off the prox fuze and go contact only).
As for locking onto landed hinds - the LB2 radar locks onto tanks ... on the ground. No problem there wink

Quote:
Also if LB2 is anything to go by,


It isn't.

Quote:
no amount of fancy DIRCM, MAWS or ECM suites will do a sh*t the good,


MWS will detect the missile launch regardless of the type of guidance. DIRCM will blind the seeker if it's IR/IIRC (and I mean totally white it out), while ECM can deceive/blind radar seekers or guidance. There are some types of guidance that will not be affected by either probably, but those missiles can be defeated by other means oftentimes (usually just by having more range wink ). No system is perfect of course - ECM might not work, and DIRCM might miss, but in general both can be very effective, especially for a heli sitting in the clutter. Having said this, a strong SAM defense (we're not talking about an SA-8/9/13/15/19/22 here and there) is very nasty to helicopters.

Quote:
as it's the one who first gets a missile 'off the rail' that has the complete advantage.


That tends to be true, but it's a little different with respect to SAMs.

Quote:
And as a Stinger only has a range of around 5 or 6 Km, we all know how that ends up...


Against what though? You won't be engaging SAMs with stingers, and no other heli has a better ranged weapon for air to air work anyway.

Quote:
In any case, I'd hope that Western missiles/acquisition suites are the most advanced and that any potential Eastern enemy would be using less advanced or older generation missiles/acquisition suites that are less effective at picking out helicopters from ground clutter, etc. As long as an F-15C has an advantage, that's all that matters!


Depends. The eastern manufacturers are catching up, and the superiority gap is closing, and closing fairly fast. It doesn't mean that western kit isn't superior - often it is, but not at the mind-bogglingly wide range it used to be. In any case, really - any guy with a gun (and in this case, by guy we mean chopper) can pop out from behind a hill, surprise you, and make sure you end up having a really bad day. No advanced anything required.


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#3467613 - 12/04/11 12:41 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: GrayGhost]  
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Originally Posted By: GrayGhost
As for locking onto landed hinds - the LB2 radar locks onto tanks ... on the ground. No problem there wink


I wasn't talking about the radar, obviously the radar would pick up a landed helo. If you'd read my comment properly you'd know that I meant the Stinger's onboard seeker. The FCR has no authority over how the Stinger functions, helicopters have been fitted and trialled with A2A missiles for years before fire control radars were even installed on them.

Originally Posted By: GrayGhost
Against what though? You won't be engaging SAMs with stingers, and no other heli has a better ranged weapon for air to air work anyway.


Against, um, enemy jet fighters and their missiles with ranges of 40+ Km! This topic is about 'Helicopters in air to air combat' after all! You brought up the whole thing about SAMs. And yes there is a possibility for a helicopter to have an air-to-air advantage over 5 or 6 Km - you must know that the Russian Vikhr can theoretically be used against helicopters, and that has a range of up to 10 Km?

#3467702 - 12/04/11 03:58 PM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: Flyboy]  
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Originally Posted By: Flyboy
I wasn't talking about the radar, obviously the radar would pick up a landed helo. If you'd read my comment properly you'd know that I meant the Stinger's onboard seeker. The FCR has no authority over how the Stinger functions, helicopters have been fitted and trialled with A2A missiles for years before fire control radars were even installed on them.


It locks onto a heat source and has a contact fuze. Other than intervening obstacles, I don't see a problem.

Originally Posted By: GrayGhost
Against, um, enemy jet fighters and their missiles with ranges of 40+ Km! This topic is about 'Helicopters in air to air combat' after all! You brought up the whole thing about SAMs. And yes there is a possibility for a helicopter to have an air-to-air advantage over 5 or 6 Km - you must know that the Russian Vikhr can theoretically be used against helicopters, and that has a range of up to 10 Km?


You can pretty much forget about a heli having any sort of advantage over a fighter other than surprise, which -can- happen, but generally the helis are just in trouble. That might be a little different against CAS planes, depending on what altitude they fly at.

As for the vikhr ... a weapon that is more than likely easily defeated if you can see it coming and, if you have an MWS at least, or you know that there's a heli somewhere (either by own sensors or via data-link or reports), then you can take precautions. The same goes for stingers of course, but the difference is that a Vikhr can be out-maneuvered by a heli.


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#3468572 - 12/06/11 12:10 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: GrayGhost]  
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Originally Posted By: GrayGhost
Modern AAMs work just fine against helis. An F-15C is easily capable of picking up and classifying a helicopter that's landed, as long as the rotors are moving - from 40-50nm.


Didn't keep an F-15E from taking out a flying helicopter using an LGB... ah, the chaos of practical events.

#3468591 - 12/06/11 01:03 AM Re: Helicopters in air to air combat [Re: brownba]  
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That helicopter was landed, and that's why they used an LGB on it. It took off while the LGB was in-flight.


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