Hellfire missileslaser guided and millimeter wave guidedare air-to-surface missiles used with several helicopter platforms, including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, as a multimission, anti-armor, precision attack weapon. They are intended for use against tanks and other heavily armored vehicles. The AGM-114L, or Longbow Hellfire, is a millimeter-wave-guided missile that uses a fire-and-forget capability found only on the AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter. Attack aviation units must aggressively manage the Hellfire missile, which is a critical ammunition resource. This article will address the means by which corps aviation Apache helicopter units should manage Hellfire missile ammunition. The procedures and techniques described are based on analyses of methods used by the 11th Aviation Regiment from Illesheim, Germany, during three V Corps simulation exercises at the Grafenwohr Simulation Center in Grafenwohr, Germany: Desert Victory in February 1999, Victory Focus in February 2001, and Urgent Victory in April 2001.
Under most battle circumstances, the Hellfire is a restricted resource. Ammunition supply rates help commanders determine needs and plan allocations when inadequate amounts of missiles are available. The required supply rate (RSR) and the controlled supply rate (CSR) are the key statistics that drive the planning for use and resupply of Hellfires. The RSR is the amount of missiles a maneuver commander estimates he will need to sustain tactical operations without restrictions for a specific mission over a given period. The CSR is the amount of ammunition that the corps allocates to each unit based on the availability of ammunition, class V storage facilities, and transportation assets over a specific period. Both RSR and CSR are expressed in rounds per weapon system per day.
RSR and CSR can change over time. RSR changes to meet the requirements of a new mission, while CSR changes when supplies either decrease or increase. Commanders use CSR to define or prioritize the flow of ammunition to units engaged in combat. Commanders can hold some Hellfires in reserve for unforeseen circumstances, but they seldom do so. When RSR equals CSR, there are no ammunition supply constraints. However, for critical ammunition types, especially Hellfires, RSR usually will not equal CSR. Hence, under most circumstances, some type of control must be established for use of the missiles.
Planning for Hellfire use begins during the mission analysis phase of the military decision-making process. The RSR is determined through S3/G3 (operations) channels based on the following factors
All of these factors help determine the weapons mix needed to defeat an enemy. For an Apache helicopter, the weapons mix will consist of 30-millimeter rounds, rockets, and Hellfires.
During the mission analysis, the planning data tend not to be as precise as data compiled a few days before the battle. This is because an accurate target count is not available early in the planning stages, when the enemy's strength and situation are unclear and details on the specific number of targets to be destroyed are unavailable. As the battle develops, more accurate intelligence data become available. Planners and operations officers will refine the RSR as the knowledge of the enemy's strength and situation increases.
Computation of the RSR is based on the number of targets, aircraft weapon loads, and the percent of kill (PK). (PK refers to the percent of the target destroyed by each fired missile. It is based on ammunition used and enemy posture.) Early in the planning stages, a good rule of thumb for determining RSR is to compute the number of targets that must be destroyed to accomplish the mission and carry out the commander's intent based on identified essential tasks and the S2 analysis of enemy strength. When the enemy's strength and situation are unclear, the number of targets counted most likely will be higher. After the S3 knows the number of targets, he must factor in the percent of kill.
©2001 The Boeing Company
An AH-64 Apache helicopter loaded with 8 Hellfire missiles and 19 rockets maneuvers to the objective.
In Exercise Desert Victory, the PK was 25 percent for stationary, dug-in targets and 35 percent for moving targets. A PK of 25 percent would require four times as much ammunition to destroy a target as a PK of 100 percent. A PK of 35 percent would require 2.9 times as much ammunition to destroy the target. In Exercise Urgent Victory, the PK was 70 percent for all targets, so fewer missiles were needed to accomplish the mission than in Desert Victory. PK may vary among units. Regardless of the PK, the important factor is the analysis, which develops the ammunition requirement.
When the S3 knows the total amount of ammunition available, he can establish a weapons mix for each aircraft to best destroy the targets. Based on the number of targets to be destroyed, the established PK, and a standard weapon mix per aircraft, the S3 can calculate the amount of ammunition needed and the number of squadron turns that will be required throughout the exercise.
If, for example, a regiment must destroy 3,500 targets over a 7-day period, it must destroy 500 targets each day. To destroy 500 targets with a PK of 25 percent, the regiment needs 2,000 Hellfires a day. The regiment expects to use 96 AH-64s; 2,000 divided by 96 equals 20.8. So the RSR is 21 Hellfires per aircraft per day. The S3 assessed the following weapons loads on the aircraft per troop: 5 AH-64s with 12 Hellfires, 0 rockets, 660 30-millimeter rounds, 1 auxiliary tank (60 Hellfires total for the troop); and 3 AH-64s with 8 Hellfires, 19 rockets, 660 30-millimeter rounds, 1 auxiliary tank (24 Hellfires total). Some units installed a Robertson fuel tank on their helicopters. The "Roby" tank provides the helicopter about 1 hour of additional flight time. When used, the "Roby" tank replaces the external auxiliary tank. This limits the 30-millimeter cannon to 90 rounds but allows all four wing stores to carry ammunition, providing space for an additional missile launcher or rocket launcher.
If the troop is expected to use 84 Hellfires per turn, then a squadron with 3 troops would use 252 Hellfires per turn and 504 Hellfires for 2 turns. When 504 is divided by 24 (the number of AH-64s expected to be available in the squadron), the result is 21 Hellfires per aircraft. This number must be provided through S3 channels as the unconstrained requirement and must match the target analysis. If the regiment had to fire 2,000 Hellfires per day to destroy 500 targets, then 8 squadron turns would be required per day (or 2 for each of the 4 squadrons in the regiment).
©2001 The Boeing Company
|An AH-64 Apache helicopter returns from a mission with empty Hellfire missile launchers and rocket pods.|
For a simulation exercise, the corps may not release the CSR until only a few days before the exercise starts. When this occurs, the unit must review its ability to accomplish the commanding general's purposes successfully. It is critical to have a clear statement of vision and intent from the commanding general that defines where he thinks attack helicopters will be used most successfully in his maneuver scheme. With clear vision and intent, accurate target analysis and ammunition forecasting are possible. The S4 and the executive officer should understand the mission requirements and ensure the supplies needed to succeed are acquired.
Although determining the CSR seems simpler than reaching the RSR, the process is not a simple math equation of the number of missiles divided by the number of units. Computing CSR is based on the following factors
If the commanding general emphasizes the importance of deep attack success on days 1, 2, and 5 of the operation, the aviation commander must allocate ammunition to allow surging during those high-priority mission days. While ground maneuver forces are conducting the counterreconnaissance fight, destroying the enemy's first operational echelon force, and assisting in the counterattack, aviation forces destroy the enemy's deep fire assets (artillery and rocket groups) or his mechanized or armored forces. If the commander anticipates a critical fight against counterattacking second-echelon forces in the later days of the operation, the aviation forces must plan their ammunition use accordingly. Hence, Hellfires must be allocated to support the anticipated plan on days 1, 2, and 5. On other days, Hellfire loads would be expected to remain low.
When Hellfire allocation is constrained, it may be necessary to revise RSR estimates if intelligence sources identify an actual threat or if aircraft status changes. This enables a unit to maximize the use of available missiles.
Planning for Hellfire use is important, but executing the plan is even more critical. The "fog of war" often causes leaders to lose sight of a well-devised resource utilization plan. As a result, a long-term tracking system must be in place to maintain an accurate count of the missiles available as the battle progresses. This means that missiles uploaded on an aircraft and those available at the forward area rearm and refuel points must be considered. If multiple turns are required during missions, then Hellfire weapon mixes must be reduced so as not to use ammunition needed for critical phases later in the fight. Forward area rearm and refuel points must be prepared to change aircraft ammunition and fuel loads based on aircraft losses and maintenance status.
During the daily commander updates, it is vital for the aviation commander to keep the commanding general informed of Hellfire status; it is not enough simply to report the stockage through formal reporting channels. Hellfire availability must be reported to the chain of command in operational terms (number of squadron turns) so the commander has an idea of how he can employ his combat power.
The commander also must know if a lack of ammunition will prevent mission success or stop his intent from being accomplished. It is equally important to keep the deputy commanding general, who serves as the commanding general's principal logistics leader, personally informed. He has the authority to reallocate Hellfire distribution throughout the corps as well as to obtain additional stocks from within the theater or, possibly, from out-of-theater stocks.
During Exercise Victory Focus, the 11th Aviation Regiment planned and executed its Hellfire use with a great deal of precision, which enabled the Victory Corps commanding general to attain his intended purposes during the critical phases of the exercise. For Victory Focus, the CSR was 12 and the RSR was 13. The regiment planners used a standard PK of 60 percent for all missions. Auxiliary fuel tanks were used on all aircraft. Despite a constrained missile supply, the regiment reduced the enemy forces to sufficient numbers so ground forces could defend and then transition to the offensive successfully. The operation was a success; however, there were only four turns of Hellfire remaining after day 5. This amount would need to last for the remaining 2 days of the exercise (initial planning would have called for 16 battalion-size turns). The success of deep attack aviation during night 5 significantly reduced the enemy's strength to the point that he could not mount a decisive attack against corps ground maneuver forces, so the exercise was halted.
During Exercise Urgent Victory, the 11th Aviation Regiment used a higher PK of 70 percent for all mission planning. All aircraft had an internal Roby fuel tank, thus allowing for longer station time and more Hellfires in the weapons mix. Aircraft conducted the mission with a standard load of either 8 Hellfires, 38 rockets, and 95 30-millimeter rounds or 12 Hellfires, 19 rockets, and 95 30-millimeter rounds. Hellfire use was about the same as in previous exercises, but the unit conducted fewer turns. The advantages were longer station time and the additional 40 nautical miles that aircraft could fly because of the Roby tank, which permitted a deeper penetration into enemy territory. The regiment received only four ammunition pushes during the entire exercise. At the end of the exercise, because of the higher PK and higher Hellfire density on aircraft, only two turns (using 12 Hellfire per aircraft per turn) remained. Although the battle damage assessment was higher, aircraft loss also was higher, which could be attributed to the deeper flight routes into enemy territory.
To forecast and manage Hellfire use properly, one must consider many factors. The bottom line is that the ammunition must be available when it is needed during critical phases of the operation. Aggressive tactics, coupled with sound logistics management, will allow attack aviation units to reach mission success and achieve the commander's intent. ALOG
Lieutenant Colonel Paul J. Wood is the Commander of the United States Recruiting Battalion-Sacramento, California. He previously served as the executive officer of the 11th Aviation Regiment in Illesheim, Germany. He has an M.S. degree in systems management from the University of Southern California and is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Joint Professional Military Education Course, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Staff Orientation Course, and the Operations Research/Systems Analysis Military Applications Course.
Captain John M. Hinck is the Attack Aviation Company Observer/Controller for Falcon Team (Aviation Detachment) at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany. He previously served as the 11th Aviation Regiment S4 and Commander of B Troop, 2-6 Cavalry. He has a B.A. degree in aerospace management from California State University, Fresno, and is a graduate of the Aviation Officer Advanced Course and the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.