DCS: AH-64D gunship action.

07 November 2021

Apache Desert Storm

Adapted for DCS World


On the attack run

Task Force Normandy

0230Z, October 1, 1991

The AH-64s were racing in at 120 mph. Hugging the desert floor. Two flights of four U.S. Army AH-64As. Each armed with eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles,19 x 2.75 in FFAR rockets and a 30 mm chain gun. Lights off and in strict radio silence. Their targets were twin Iraqi radar sites located just north of the border with Saudi Arabia. Linked to four enemy fighter bases, the radars were the early-warning eyes of Iraq’s quick-reaction integrated air defense system (IADS) - and of the Iraqi Intelligence Operations Center in Baghdad.


Poised to strike

Two USAF MH-53J Pave Low electronic warfare helicopters fitted with state-of-the-art GPS navigation systems and terrain-following radar were in close formation with the AH-64s. Their task was to help make sure the gunships reached the objective on time and on target. Codenamed Task Force Normandy, the 10 helicopters were at the very tip of the Allied military spear: the first thrust of Operation Desert Storm. Colonel Richard Cody, the C.O. of 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment,101st Airborne Division was in overall command of the attack.

At the Initial Point (IP) nine miles south of the targets, the Pave Lows dropped chemical lights to the desert floor. The AH-64s used the markers to update their navigational and targeting systems. The Pave Lows peeled away and fell back to the rendezvous point.

The night was moonless with little or no wind. Darkness helped: surprise was essential. The Apaches had to destroy the targets and be out before the Iraqis could scramble their MiG-29 fighters - and try to shoot them down.


In the crosshairs

Four miles south of the objective, the attackers pulled up into a low hover. The target buildings jumped into view on the FLIR screens. Gunners steered their crosshairs onto the pale, ghostly blocks. Flight leader Lt. Thomas Drew broke the silence. “Party in ten!” Ten seconds later, and as one, the gunships opened fire.


AGMs on target

Salvos of Hellfires and rockets rippled from the stub wings. The installation’s main generator exploded in a fireball of orange and red. Night became day. Chaos engulfed the target area. “Just incessant fire,” Colonel Cody recalled: “missile after missile, rocket after rocket, 30 mm after 30 mm coming from four aircraft that they couldn’t even see. From the first shot, they were just running for cover.”


Targets destroyed

Despite the success, there was still work to do: ‘If all we did was hit the generator, they could go to secondary power,’ Cody said. “We had a follow-on mission: put the whole site down for a couple of days, so the Air Force wouldn’t have to go in and retarget it…'' Closing to within 4,000 meters, the AH-64s blasted the ZPU 14.5 mm anti-aircraft artillery with rockets and guns, putting the enemy defences out of action for good.

As well as undergoing many weeks of arduous training at a remote desert base, the crews had been resourceful: on internal fuel, the AH-64 can fly fully combat-loaded (eight Hellfires, thirty-eight rockets, and 1,200 chain-gun rounds) for about two hours. To get around this limitation, the teams adopted a suggestion put forward by pilot Lt. Tim De Vito. He recommended attaching 1,700-pound, 230-gallon external fuel tanks to the AH-64s left inboard weapons station. The planners did not want to risk setting up a refuelling point like the one used in the abortive 1980 Iran Hostage rescue. The trade-off was a halving of each AH-64 rocket payload from 38 to 19.


EXFIL - Mission accomplished

Twenty-two minutes after the raid, dozens of Allied planes roared through the gaping 20-mile gap the AH-64s had blasted in Iraq’s air defense network. Arrowing north, they destroyed a succession of critical enemy targets. AH-64 team leaders transmitted the code words “California AAA” and “Nebraska AAA” to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) headquarters. It meant the primary targets had been entirely destroyed and there were no U.S. casualties. In what was only their second combat operation, (Panama 1989 was their baptism of fire) the AH-64 had proved its mettle.

Adapted for DCS World from the 1 Oct.1991 article by Richard Mackenzie.

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Eagle Dynamics Team