MovieChat Forums > Fire BirdsĀ (1990) Discussion > Two dumb questions about choppers, jets ...

Two dumb questions about choppers, jets and ejection seats (spoiler)


Aren't choppers too slow and hard to maneuver (when compared to fast jets) to be able to win in a chopper - jet dogfight?

Also, don't choppers (like Apache) or (enemy) jets have ejection seats? According to this flick, they don't.

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Yes; the Apache is too slow for a jet. The jet fighter would have to be slower than molasses in January (for a jet) even to be engaged by any Helicopter. There are no Airwolves.

Helicopters have no ejection seat. I used to joke that they did, to see if any young dumb pilot would inquire about how they work and how to test them. The reason is obvious: In which direction would you eject the pilots? Up through the rotors? But, the less obvious reason is that, for the most part, helicopters, especially one like the Apache, operate at such low altitudes that ejecting would be silly. The Apache is a very survivable helicopter by comparison to others. If you were to suffer a tail-strike (usually from a tree or a power line), you'll drop like a rock and you'll be able to pop the plexiglass on the canopy if necessary (or just open the door), and walk out. You might be bruised and achy from the crash.

Ejection seats on jets do not guarantee survival in the event of a hit. No pilot ever wants to punch out. It's really something he dreads because it can be a bit of a crap-shoot. There's a really good chance he'll be killed. The rockets might not work, the chute might not deploy, or might not deploy soon enough because he ejected at a low altitude, he might catch the aircraft structure and kill himself outright, he could have his legs severed from smashing through the canopy (some aircraft ejection systems didn't pop out the canopy like in Top Gun - which killed a pilot - but shoved you right through the canopy as it shattered it with det-cord), or even if everything happens just right he lands wrong and breaks bones. And then, if he does manage to survive all that in good shape, he might be in the middle of nowhere. Or in the ocean. Or in the middle of enemy territory. The guy that shot him down will report his chute at his location, and patrols will be by presently.



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Thanks! That's one of the best and most thorough answers I ever got here.

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The Apache is a great aircraft, but it has limitations. And while it can pull off loops and barrel-rolls, if I did that in the aircraft in real life, my wings would be pulled from me. There is no real reason to do that in an Apache.

The purpose of the Apache is to kill tanks and troops. Killing tanks is our forte'. It can shoot a tank with a Hellfire at 10 miles out, further with the Longbow version of the Apache.

The mission in Fire Birds was inappropriate for the Apache. A Hellfire is a $17,000.00 missile. So you don't need that, right? There's nothing that the druggies have that necessitates a high-explosive anti-tank missile. The FLIR camera will be helpful, but lots of aircraft have FLIR (some even better than the Apache). The most useful weapon for this mission would be the 30mm cannon, but, that's overkill. You want to see what that gun can do? Go to YouTube, look up Apache 30mm Cannon, and you'll find a ton of videos on it. It can shred any civilian vehicle short of the heaviest, and I mean heaviest, equipment. Like, I'm taking about a massive hydraulic front-end loader or dumptruck, something with a lot of mass in it already. For the kind of mission in Fire Birds, something like an M60, or up to an M2, would be sufficient. Don't need an attack helicopter. There are plenty of other airframes that can do that job quite nicely; perhaps better since they can do a lot of other things the Apache can't, like carry troops and equipment.

I think when Fire Birds was made, the Army didn't want too much revealed about what the Apache could do. Things were still kind of tense; just because the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviets collapsed didn't mean the Russians weren't enemies (and you can say that still today, given their attitude). It was important to keep certain things secret about the aircraft so that the enemy doesn't develop tactics to use against it.

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Again, thanks! That does explain some odd choices in the movie.

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Having watched the film (ugh) again, I've gave some considerations as to the bad guys.

If I was the bad guys in this film, what I would've done would be to deploy decoys and hide as much of my main operations as possible. If my operations have raised the ire of the US Government to the point that they're going to deploy the AH-64A (or the Longbow) against me, I'm going to change things so considerably so as to assume formlessness, hunker down, perhaps get my competition to fight the US Army so that they will be destroyed or severely crippled, so that, in a few years after the Army has blown off all their ordinance and the politicians have got their political slogans so they can get re-elected, I'd come back, and I'd be wiser for the wear. If I do something again that brings back the US Army complete with Attack Aviation, I'll be better prepared to deal with that situation, assume formlessness in a much better way, rinse, lather, repeat.

Because, you see, if I fight back directly, I'm going to lose lives, material, and equipment, and money, more so than the US Army ever will and whatever they spend will be replenished in ways I can't counter or match. You cannot fight against an enemy that can deliver ordinance on your assets with impunity with the kind of assets that these bad guys in Fire Birds had, not even with jet fighters, because A) I don't have many, so I can't afford to lose any, and B) even if I win battles like this (not likely) I will lose the war. Americans do not lose wars (contrary to popular opinion, we didn't lose in Vietnam, we lost the peace we fought for). And if I manage to defeat the US Army somewhere, the US Army will adapt and come at me even harder than I could possibly imagine. So the best thing to do is to give the Army something to shoot at while at the same time preserve what I can so that I can be in business when the Army leaves.

It costs a lot of money and effort to keep any Army in the field. Armies do not make money. So they are not self-sustaining. So, really, the best way to defeat me is to kill me and my leadership, and that would require to infiltrate my organization and find me so that you can use whatever weapons that are expedient and effective, just as we did with Osama bin Laden. But, there is also the example of Pancho Villa; the US Army deployed to the American Southwest in order to find and kill him, and they were unsuccessful. After the Army left to go fight in the First World War, Pancho Villa was finally killed by someone who could get close to him and had a beef with him. It wasn't the US Government that did it. It goes to show that the Army isn't always the best instrument in which to fight fast and amorphous enemies (historically speaking, the US Army has never been good at pursuit operations anyway).

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actually some russian choppers (the kamovs in particular) do have ejection seats: the main rotors are equipped with explosive bolts and are designed to release the blades moments before the seat rocket is fired.

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actually some russian choppers (the kamovs in particular) do have ejection seats: the main rotors are equipped with explosive bolts and are designed to release the blades moments before the seat rocket is fired.


Yeah, I saw that. Do you want to know the real reason for that?

If you're going down in a helicopter, especially one that's like the Apache, like the Kamov Ka-50 is, which means that it basically has the Apache's mission, that means you're going to be really low to the ground to the point that punching out will do you no good. The Russians do not want their pilots captured, or worse, defecting to the West. Telling them there's an ejection system is meant to give them the option of using it if they get into trouble. Chances are, it'll kill them.

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Do you want to know the real reason for that?

The real reason is that the Ka-50 is far more advanced helicopter than Apache. That is why Apache does not have an ejection seat and Ka-50 does.

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Russian aircraft have never been more advanced than American. Ever. Just because you put an ejection seat on a helicopter doesn't mean it's more advanced at all. In fact, quite the opposite. If they feel as though they need to put one on a helicopter, a vehicle that normally operate at such low altitudes that ejecting is silly, there are other reasons. One is the Russian penchant for doing what they can to keep their pilots from fleeing to the west. Another could be that the Ka-50 is such an inherently unsafe aircraft that the pilots are certain not to survive the crash for some reason. If you think that the best means of saving the pilot is to risk a foolhardy move like punching out at 100-500 feet, where the aircraft is most likely to operate, that means there's something dreadfully wrong with the aircraft.

In order for the chute to work, you need at least 200-500 feet in order for them to deploy, and another 300 feet or so in order to slow you down so you don't die or seriously injure yourself on impact.

The Apache is utterly survivable. It's designed to be. In every crash I've ever seen, the pilots walked out. The aircraft never burst into flames, and much of the equipment on board could be recovered. It can take a 20mm round in the rotor blades and hardly feel it. It can operate with a complete loss of hydraulic fluid, no oil in the gear boxes, and more holes in it than a sieve, and make it back to an airfield. It has self-sealing fuel tanks, armored engine cowlings, and triple redundant systems. It has also proven that it can be flown incredible hours with Operational Readiness rates above 80%. By comnparison, the Russian Mil-24 Hind and 28 Havoc mostly spent their times in hangars, because flying them took such a heavy toll on their systems.



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WG, you're ignoring why modern ejection seats are termed "zero-zero", meaning they can be activated down to 0 knots and 0 altitude, because they have the solid rocket motors (and related pyrotechnics and compressed air charges) to blast them to an adequate altitude for full chute deployment.

Granted, it's best to have at least 60 knots on the nose (but preferably not over 200), and 1,000+ feet off the deck, but they can (and have) been successfully deployed while taxiing.

http://www.ejectionsite.com/

http://www.martin-baker.com/ =:O

The Russian helo system is very interesting, and that whole blowing off the main rotor blades makes it, by far, the most complex and problematic (and dangerous) ejection sequence to date.

Pondering the stability of a large attack chopper--throughout the airspeed/attitude envelope--when its rotor blades (wings) are instantly removed, well, that just BEGS FOR VIDEO! Paging Mr. Putin... come in Vlad... need some testing videos over here!

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I'm not ignoring that. I'm disregarding that based on practicality. Helicopters rarely operate at altitudes where ejecting would make sense in case of an emergency. When they fly at high altitudes it's usually to transition from one area to another where they usually operate. The most common helicopter to operate at high altitudes regularly would be something like the CH-47 Chinook, which was used extensively in the higher areas of Afghanistan, and was considered the number one assault platform. But even then, for most of the time, they operated at such low altitudes that jumping out of the aircraft in case of an emergency usually was a bad idea.

The real mission of any attack helicopter, obviously, is to attack targets on the ground. To do that, they have to operate between 100-2000 feet off the ground; any higher and they might not see them too well enough to engage properly. The AH-64D Longbow radar only works if it has something to interface with, so you have to give it an area to blanket. If you're too low that the rotorwash kicks debris into the path of the radar, it's not going to work, and if you're too high, it won't work on targets that are particularly close. So the general altitude we mostly fly at is under 1,000 feet, usually around 500 feet or lower, especially if we're transitioning to a combat area.

To eject at those altitudes is asking for trouble; you probably won't survive it, or if you do you're not going to be dancing anytime soon. Also, there's no need. The Apache is designed to be survivable in the event of a crash. Every Apache I've ever seen crash had both pilots not only survive, but walk out of with some minor bruising. One guy chipped a tooth. Two of them crapped their pants, but that was expected under the circumstances. The point is that if you have a helicopter that has an ejection system, that really doesn't say much about the safety of the aircraft, does it?

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Actually the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a particularly advanced helicopter. It has several adavantages over the Apache, or any other traditional gunship layout. Its automation systems are so advanced a single person flies it. No need for a separate pilot and gunner. The fact it utilizes the contra-rotating blades (a Kamov trademark) means it goes faster, has higher survivability, has no rpm limitation, has no vulnerable tail rotor, requires less power to fly, and can take off regardless of wind speed and direction. Its systems also allow for more accurate weapons delivery, and it is known to also have extensive armour for protection. It actually beat out the Mi-28 Havoc in competition.

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It's still a grandiose POS. No, sorry, it sucks. The Soviet Red Army didn't really test this contraption enough. No, I didn't mistype. I've been paying close attention to this turkey, and it's a turkey through and through. Terrible aircraft all the way.

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