by Richard Sheffield
Tips on Operating the Aircraft
Losing altitude quickly. Often when operating in a heavily defended enemy area and firing a number of weapons, you find yourself to be much higher than you would like. A helicopter can only dive so fast, and fooling with the collective takes time which you may not have. A good way to lose altitude quickly is to shut down both engines, leaving the rotor engaged. With no lift being generated, you'll fall like a stone. Once you pass through 150 feet, start the engines again, and you should bottom out at about 80 feet, depending upon your weight. By doing this, you can rapidly get back to the safety of low altitude and get out of the sight of enemy guns.
Staying unseen. There are a number of things which figure into determining whether you can be seen by the enemy, but the most important of these are altitude and speed. Whenever possible, it's best to go low and slow. A slow-moving helicopter is very difficult to see, especially at night, so if you do not have to cover a lot of ground to get to the target, you have a good chance of sneaking up on the enemy. A good rule of thumb when operating the aircraft at any time is to keep your airspeed and altitude equal: Good procedures to follow are both 80 knots at 80 feet and 60 knots at 60 feet.
Repairing damage. Damage to your aircraft will be discussed in detail later, but there is one thing you should be aware of regarding landing and repairing damage before continuing the mission. In theory, repairing this damage would take several hours, and during this time the enemy would also have time to repair damage and replace destroyed equipment. As a result, a good number of targets which you destroyed will reappear when you go back out. You'll have to judge for yourself whether this is good or bad depending upon the situation. If you have spent your first trip out clearing a path to get to your primary target, then you wouldn't want to have to fight your way through again; so, if your damage is not critical, don't have it repaired.
However, if your primary mission is complete and the secondary target is close to the base, you might want the extra points available by destroying targets a second time. Since you know where they are, finding the high-scoring AA guns should be easy. The one situation where you wouldn't want to do this is the case where you destroyed the Hind heli-base on your first trip out. With this base destroyed, you won't have to worry about Hinds for the rest of your mission. You wouldn't want to chance that base popping back up as a result of having your damage repaired.
Staying alive. First of all, you don't have to let a pilot die unless you want to. If you are "killed" or end up MIA and you want to continue to use this pilot, all you have to do is turn your computer off without turning the disk over. All of the information as to whether a pilot is alive or dead is stored on the front side of the disk; if you don't turn the disk over so that data can be recorded, you'll be able to send that pilot out on future missions.
With that in mind, let's try not to get killed or captured in the first place. One of the most important flying skills you can acquire is learning autorotation and power-off landing procedures. These procedures should be practiced until they're second nature. The aircraft produces maximum lift at a forward speed of 60–90 knots, so try to maintain this speed during an autorotation descent. Keeping your airspeed in this range will allow you to fly the aircraft for a good distance before hitting the ground, giving you a chance to find a good place to land.
You really should take advantage of this time to look at the map and plan your landing because the computer decides whose lines you are behind, based upon the closest troops. If you land 1 kilometer from a U.S. base but are .9 kilometer from an enemy infantry unit, you'll be considered behind enemy lines.
When you are autorotating, take a quick look at the map or swing around toward your lines and look for a friendly tank or infantry unit; try to land as close to it as possible. Huts are also considered friendly, so if there is a hut in the area, land close to it. Take care, however, not to land on top of it since you'll crash.
Flying with a heavy load. Weather conditions will determine how much of a load you can carry. When choosing your armaments for a particular mission, feel free to load up to the maximum weight level. Just keep a couple of items in mind.
If you lose an engine before you fire a lot of weapons, you won't be able to hover and may not be able to continue flying. If this occurs, you'll have to jettison some of your weapons. Which ones you choose to drop will depend on what you're going to do. If you're going to continue on toward the target, you may want to drop any FFARs you're carrying, figuring you could use the gun on soft targets, or vice versa. If heading for home is your plan, then dropping the heavy Hellfires would be a good idea.
If you find yourself in a situation where your lift is reduced, be careful when adjusting the collective. The rotor blades are like any other wings and can stall if the pitch is increased too much. Decreasing your weight and maintaining an airspeed in the 60–90 knot range will improve your lifting capability.
Listen to your aircraft. A great deal of care has gone into programming the sound for Gunship. The sound does more than provide background noise, it gives you clues as to how your aircraft is performing. If one engine has been hit, you'll notice a different sound, and the rotors will slow down. If you increase the collective too much, the rotors will also slow to let you know.
Sound is also important during the autorotation procedure. The sound of the rotors turning lets you know that you're moving forward enough to maintain lift. Get used to listening to the engine and rotor sounds for clues as to the aircraft's performance.
Two-player system. The AH-64A is a two-person aircraft. There is so much going on during a battle that two sets of eyes and hands are needed to keep up with what is going on and to effectively engage the enemy. Gunship was set up so that one person could function as both the pilot and copilot/gunner, but often that one person experiences what the military refers to as sensory overload. You have so many lights flashing, warning bells going off, and dials and gauges to keep up with that some are missed and others ignored—often with disastrous consequences.
In order to play Gunship at the highest levels of difficulty, it's helpful to use a two-player system. It is most convenient for two players to sit side by side in front of the computer, but I have heard of players who go to greater lengths to simulate the actual Apache. They sit like the Apache crew with the copilot/gunner sitting in a low chair right in front of the screen and keyboard and the pilot sitting behind in a higher chair looking over the head of the CPG.
Responsibilities can be divided in any way you choose, but I have found that the following system works especially well.
Fly the aircraft.
Set the course.
Fire the weapons.
Disengage the rotor when both engines are down.
Give the orders; someone has to be in charge.
Since the copilot/gunner cannot fly the aircraft, he or she must be given more to do to keep from being bored and becoming a spectator. The CPG's areas of responsibility are as follows:
Watch the threat display and advise the pilot of enemy location.
Watch the IR and Radar warning lights and activate jammers when needed.
If jammers do not work, drop flares or chaff.
Advise the pilot to break right or left to avoid a SAM which has evaded countermeasures.
Watch the fuel level and advise the pilot when it gets low.
Advise the pilot when the helicopter gets too high or low during combat.
Prioritize targets and change TADS designator.
Jettison stores if necessary.
Keep an eye on damage and advise the pilot when damage occurs.
Watch weapons levels and advise the pilot when all of a particular weapon has been used.