by Richard Sheffield
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Military helicopters in the U.S. are, for the most part, controlled by the Army, although the Navy and Marines do have limited helicopter operations. This is due to a compromise, called the Key West agreement, reached after WWII between the Army and the newly created Air Force. Under this agreement, the Air Force was given control of almost all of the land-based fixed-wing aircraft. The Army then followed the only path open to them in the area of aviation and pushed the development of rotary-wing aircraft (and push they have). What started out as a scout and medical-evacuation vehicle has been transformed into one of the most complex, high-tech weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
At one time, not so long ago, Army aviators took a back seat to the more colorful fighter and bomber pilots of the Air Force and Navy, but increased public knowledge of the contribution of the helicopter changed that. The high visibility of the helicopter in the Vietnam war and the increased emphasis on attack helicopters in Europe have kept the Army recruiting offices packed with applicants hoping to learn to fly at the government's expense. If, after playing with the Gunship simulation for while, you think that actually flying an AH-64A might not be a bad job, be prepared for a long and complicated process—but one well worth the trouble if you make it through.