Sunday, April 20, 2008

Teamwork allows HMLA 169 to provide effective CAS

Staff Sgt. Ryan O'Hare

Taqaddum, Iraq (April 17, 2008) - Utilizing a combination of helicopters to assist ground troops during missions allows the ‘Vipers’ of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 to merge the unique capabilities of both their aircraft.

The twin engine UH-1N, otherwise known as the ‘Huey’ along side the AH-1W Super Cobra, simultaneously provide protection as well as aerial reconnaissance to units in the fight.

“The basic philosophy between the combination is that there are some things the Hueys can do, that the Cobras can’t, and vice-versa,” said Capt. Richard Alcabes, HMLA 169, UH-1N pilot. “Call it Batman and Robin if you will, but the combination is very effective.”

The majority of missions supported by the Vipers consist of troop inserts, close air support and convoy assistance.

“The Hueys work together very well with the Cobras,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Barrett, UH-1N crew chief. “We have the capability to bring the heavy firepower from the Cobras and also the good coverage that the Hueys can provide.”

This unique aerial partnership between the two helicopters allows for effective results, despite their difference in age.

“The Hueys have been around since the Vietnam era,” commented Barrett, a Bettendorf, Iowa, native. “Most of them are older than I am, but it’s a tried and true platform and they continue to be successful.”

Although the Huey has been in service for more than 40 years, modifications and updates make it a valuable Marine Corps asset.

“It’s kind of unique within the rotary-wing to begin with,” said Barrett. “It really allows us to configure the aircraft in several different ways, so that we can provide troop inserts, light cargo lifts and also act as a gun ship.”

Although the Huey does have room for supplies and light troop numbers, its combat capabilities are far surpassed by that of the Cobra.

According to Alcabes, the Cobra is specifically designed for attack missions. The air to air combat capabilities and the ability to fire missiles and other ordnance makes the Cobra a great escort for the UH-1N.

“The Cobra provides the speed and maneuvering that we can’t,” said Alcabes. “It also has precision-guided ordnance, making it a very effective weapon in the sky.”

With each helicopter working together as a team, the unique partnership within HMLA-169 will continue to provide effective support to troops on the ground as well as efficient intelligence capabilities in the air.

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