Apaches During Night Training
Apaches from 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, wait to fire on the range, Feb. 26, at Fort Stewart.

<b> FORT STEWART, Ga. </b> The silhouette of an Apache slowly comes into focus as it begins its descent on the range, a dark spot against a background of Georgia stars. It rotates to face the range, three miles of open field, perfect for training.

The two pilots in the Apache comprise one of eight teams from 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment participating in aerial gunnery, Feb. 26 at Fort Stewart.

"We're shooting aerial gunnery to qualify crews for upcoming training events and future deployments," said Capt. Jeff Minders, member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1/3 Avn. "It's to hone our combat skills. The better gun pilots we are, the better we are at supporting the ground forces.

The gunnery consists of 12 scenarios, during which the pilots fire their rockets, missiles and 30-mm cannon, both in the day and at night. The scenarios comprise of pop-up targets and require both the front seat and the back seat pilot to work together to accomplish their engagements.

"It develops the pilots as a crew for crew coordination because the AH-64 is a two-person aircraft. Both pilots are required to operate the aircraft, and they have to work, in a sense, as one," said Chief Warrant Officer Guy Davis, member of HHC, 1/3 Avn., and master gunner. "They have to maintain good crew coordination. It's one of the things I grade - how well these pilots work as a team."

The pilots are also graded on the number of hits and the time in which they accomplish the engagements. A practice run is performed after which the pilots go over their engagements. The video from the aircraft is used to analyze the pilots. In addition, the Aerial Weapon Scoring System on the range has sensors in proximity to the targets which detect laser energy and bullet or rocket impact. After the range is completed, a table of what the sensors recorded is printed out. This report is coupled with the video for analysis.

"We go over weapons delivery, steady platform - everything has to line up," said Davis. "There are different things you have to do in the aircraft, and as, I pick up on things they do incorrectly, I correct them . If necessary, we train before they go up for the qualification table."

The range simulates the conditions of Iraq and Afghanistan, said Minders. Some of the scenarios require the aircraft to dive while a pilot is shooting, and others require both pilots to fire weapons simultaneously.

"It prepares them for combat operations in addition to this being weapons training, because this is exactly how we employ this aircraft in combat," said Davis. "We have to have precise weapons on time, on target."

Page last updated Thu March 12th, 2009 at 11:19