by Richard Sheffield
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Just as tanks have always been the most effective weapon against tanks, helicopters are the most efficacious means of fighting helicopters. Use of helicopters by both warring sides will inevitably lead to clashes between them. Like tank battles of past wars, a future war between well equipped armies is bound to involve helicopters.
—Colonel M. Belov
Published in Soviet Military Review
Since the beginning of warfare, similar weapons and forces have seemed to attract each other on the battlefield. Knights fought knights, infantry fought infantry, cavalry always seemed to find the opponent's cavalry, and tanks were used to counter tanks. It is a logical assumption then that sooner or later helicopters will fight helicopters.
The Soviets have realized this for quite some time now and, according to some experts, have a lead in the area of tactical development. They have taken a typically Soviet approach to the problem by creating a large, fast, armored, multipurpose aircraft (the Hind) and building it by the hundreds. What they lack in technology, they intend to make up for in sheer numbers. Consequently, NATO forces will face a larger number of fast, heavily armored Hinds on the future battlefield. Since the basic premise of war is for each side to shoot until one side can't shoot back any more, if the NATO forces are to win, each NATO helicopter is going to have to shoot down a number of Soviet helicopters.
That is the task you are presented with in Gunship. The enemy has plenty of Hinds to throw away, so you'll have to take them one by one until you complete your mission.Figure 8-1. A Broadside Gun Attack on a Soviet Hind Helicopter
So how do you go about taking care of the never-ending stream of Hinds? Helicopter air-to-air combat is like fixed-wing air combat, with a difference. Due to the low speeds and low altitudes involved, a helicopter fight is more akin to a cat fight than a dog fight. It will be very quick and furious, and disengagement is almost impossible once the fight starts. The tactics, however, do resemble those used by fighter pilots.
This type of combat is relatively new and as such the tactics and guidelines are still being established, but a few nuggets of usable information have appeared. So pay attention—great rewards of rank, medals, and high point scores will follow all ye who observe these rules!
The Five Cardinal Rules of Helicopter vs. Helicopter Combat
Stay low. Fighting a helicopter is a very dangerous undertaking. Don't make it more so by gaining a lot of altitude in the process, thus making yourself vulnerable to enemy AA guns and SAMs at the same time.
Fire at maximum standoff range. The main advantage you have over the Hind is the ability to fire missiles and rockets while out of range of the Hind's guns. Don't give up this advantage by engaging in a close-in gun fight unless you have no choice. This type of fight can be quite exciting, to say the least, but quite often the Hind pilot will hand you your lunch in little pieces!
Fire first. This goes hand-in-hand with the second rule. Keep an eye on your threat display so you can locate and engage the enemy at long range. If you're quicker on the draw and get the first shot in, you have a good chance of winning.
Lose sight, lose fight. Helicopter fights take place very quickly. If you get into a position where you can't see your opponent, you're in big trouble—especially if the enemy can see you. Once the fight is on, take great care to use the right and left view keys to maintain visual contact. As long as you can see the enemy, you have a good chance of hitting the target.
Mission first. One of the major concerns that the Army has regarding arming helicopters for air-to-air combat is that the pilots will go off chasing enemy helicopters instead of performing their assigned ground attack or support role. Part of any soldier's mission has always been self-defense, so if you're attacked by an enemy helicopter, you should defend yourself. Don't get so carried away, however, that you go hunting for Hinds—unless you have completed your assigned mission.