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AIM-92 Stinger w/ BCU and Grip Stock in 30sec?


To any Apache pilots out there, how long does it take to mate Stinger missiles mounted on Apache pylons with the BCU and grip stock for man portable use? Sean Young seemed to do it in 30 sec, all while seemingly untrained and under the direction of an immobile Tommy Lee Jones.

I didn't think the movie was that bad. Certainly no Top Gun, but totally watchable. There are many worse cheesy movies out there.

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Veni, Vidi, Oh Just Facit!

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It wouldn't happen to begin with.

The AH-64 hasn't got a whole lot of space to be packing around a BCU. Pilots carry a lot of gear in the small storage compartment located in the tail-boom behind the aft-fuel tank. They carry their kitbag, their helmet bag, and perhaps a survival kit that will come in more handy than a Stinger set. I used to carry an M-4 Carbine back there, because I felt the M9 Pistol was insufficient if I went down in Afghanistan.

For the most part, Stingers are not mounted on Apaches. On the rare occasion, and I mean only once, we did have Stingers mounted, we found it was really one too many things to have happen in the aircraft. They have to mount a special sight for the Pilot (who sits in the back seat), and then you have to point the aircraft in the target's general direction. Hopefully, the target it moving slow enough to allow me to get a lock on it and fire the missile. This is problematic in the Apache. While it is a fast aircraft, the Apache is not suited to firing the Stinger because it is designed to be a shoulder-fired weapon. The guy firing that on the ground can pivot and move faster than the Apache can to get the target solution he needs.

Even supposing that the enemy aircraft is moving stationary or slow enough for me to get a bead on it with a Stinger, this presents whole other option. Why not use the gun? Or even a Hellfire? They're faster to engage the target with. And if I can physically see the enemy aircraft (in order to engage an aircraft with the Stinger, it has to be in direct visual range of the shooter), chances are it's in range of my gun. A 30mm gun is going to make short work of anything it hits.

This is why we don't mount the Stinger.

Any aircraft that we seriously worry about we can't engage anyway. Those are the fighters and fast-moving killers in the sky that we can't do anything about, and they will kill us.

So in Fire Birds, we have to ask why they have Stingers on the Apache when they really serve no useful purpose? Well, it's simply to have a scene where Sean Young gets to shoot an aircraft down with one.

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Considering these are AH64As, I seem to remember that the Stinger was initially rated to be carried on the craft, as Sidewinders were a little too heavy...

I seem to remember Microprose's Gunship 2000 had the Stinger as the recommended option for air-to-air self-defence on the '64A.

I've never served - so I defer to experienced military and ex-military bods here re actual use, but could this be another case where theory fell apart on application?

Or is ti the case that the Hellfire was later usable against air-to-air threats once the AH64-B Longbow was rolled out?

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Or is ti the case that the Hellfire was later usable against air-to-air threats once the AH64-B Longbow was rolled out?


Basically, the Hellfire is an air-to-ground missile, but if a target aircraft is hovering and is low enough, the missile will probably hit it. What the Hellfire can do is loiter for few minutes. You can launch one or two into the air, and it'll sort of circle overhead the target, but you don't have a lot of time to do this. The purpose of this is if you know a target is hiding behind something, like a tree or if it popped smoke so that you can't get your laser in there to get a good reflection for the missile to see it, you launch the missile and when the target comes out, you "laz" it and the missile comes right down, on top where armor is weakest, on it.

In simulators, I've hit enemy helicopters with the Hellfire at range, because they were moving slow enough for me to get a laser on them and lock them in. I don't know if it would work in real life, but it seems plausible to me.

Again, as for Stingers, they're kind of a waste of time. The Army doesn't go anywhere without sufficient air superiority from the Air Force; if there is an enemy aircraft out there that would give us trouble, the Air Force probably would find out about it real quick (24/7/365 AWACS or JSTARS surveillance) and take care of that problem.

Plus, there's the weight issue. Weight on any aircraft is a premium, and the Apache is certainly no exception. Going out on patrols I'd often carry an external fuel tank, which cut down on my wing stores, but since I'm not firing rockets I could load up with three racks of Hellfire and about 400-600 rounds of HE rounds for the gun (we never flew with a full 1200 rounds - it's too heavy). Adding Stingers would be more weight than they're worth. You go with what you know you'll use out there.

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WyldeGoose, any real reason to add an additional internal fuel tank when it reduces the amount of 30mm ammo you could carry? If I was on the ground, I would want an Apache supporting us that could carry as much ammunition as possible. I have seen PLENTY of videos of that death machine at work to know that I would never want to be on the receiving end of it.

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WyldeGoose, any real reason to add an additional internal fuel tank when it reduces the amount of 30mm ammo you could carry? If I was on the ground, I would want an Apache supporting us that could carry as much ammunition as possible. I have seen PLENTY of videos of that death machine at work to know that I would never want to be on the receiving end of it.


More fuel means more time we get to fly, which means we can stay longer to provide air support to for the troops on the ground. This is especially good for convoy protection, where we have to fly over the slow-moving convoy (it ain't doing 100mph) and do lots of circles to cover a wide area while the convoy makes it's maneuvers. Time can be critical; and we do plan such missions to allow new aircraft to come out and replace the ones they started out with so that they can go back and refuel, and rearm if necessary.

Without external fuel tanks, an Apache can generally stay in the air for about 5-6 hours, maybe more if conditions are pleasant. One external fuel tank can add another 3 hours. With four mounted on the wing stores, an Apache can span North America. I read that it can make a trip from Maine to Iceland like this.

When we plan our missions for close air support, we try to plan for maximum time in theater for the troops to be able to call upon us at any time they need some firepower. Like I said before, we generally carry 400-600 rounds of 30mm ammo and have Hellfire on the other wing stores, for a total of 12, if we fly with an external tank, and that's plenty of firepower for just about anything we might happen to encounter. We don't like rockets; they do funny things in the air.

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More fuel means more time we get to fly, which means we can stay longer to provide air support to for the troops on the ground. This is especially good for convoy protection, where we have to fly over the slow-moving convoy (it ain't doing 100mph) and do lots of circles to cover a wide area while the convoy makes it's maneuvers. Time can be critical; and we do plan such missions to allow new aircraft to come out and replace the ones they started out with so that they can go back and refuel, and rearm if necessary.


So the additional internal tank that caps the 30mm ammo to 500-600 rounds is permanent? I think I read somewhere that the D versions were all being converted to this? I understand what you say about the loiter time but with two external tanks, couldn't the bird still carry 8 hellfire and without the internal tank still keep 1,200 rounds of ammunition? I'm on the outside looking in but I would think that would be a preferred setup unless the ammunition weighs to much.

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So the additional internal tank that caps the 30mm ammo to 500-600 rounds is permanent? I think I read somewhere that the D versions were all being converted to this? I understand what you say about the loiter time but with two external tanks, couldn't the bird still carry 8 hellfire and without the internal tank still keep 1,200 rounds of ammunition? I'm on the outside looking in but I would think that would be a preferred setup unless the ammunition weighs to much.


No, the cap isn't permanent. That is just a ball-park figure we use whether we're carrying an extra can of gas or not. Experience with the Apache has given us a rather "golden" number that we like to go out with that optimizes not only the aircraft's performance, but also gauge other things that happen during the aircraft's operations that often isn't seen.

For instance, it's a rule that we try not to have live ordinance when we go to the airfield. This is for safety reasons. So, in nice conditions, what we like to do is go to what is known as a FARP (Forward Arming Refueling Point) to download whatever ammo we have so we can go to the airfield, especially if there's a maintenance problem. Taking off rockets and Hellfire is easy, takes very little time to do. But taking bullets out of the ammo handling system can take a long time, particularly if you're running around with more than 700 rounds. Every second you're on the pad getting de-armed is a second another aircraft isn't using that for fuel and weapons, and that's a second it's not in action. Yes, the Armament Dawgs can de-arm the aircraft at the airfield, and when things are hot and heavy that will happen, but it's not what we prefer.

400-600 rounds is plenty for most missions. Sure, anyone would like more ammo, but believe it or not this is plenty for what we have to do. The gun fires at a rate of 625 rounds + or - 25 rounds a minute (about the same as an M16), and we usually fire in 10 round bursts (but if you hold down the trigger to the second detent, you can rock-and-roll). 10 rounds of HE ammo will do a lot of damage to whatever it hits. Helps us conserve ammo.

When we tried loading up with a full can of ammo, 1200 rounds, the aircraft flies like a whale, and that's without wing stores. With wing-stores, she flies like a pregnant whale. This is mostly due mainly to weight distribution.

See, all that weight is in the Ammo Drum located between the fore and aft fuel tanks, and some of the ammo is in an ammo handling system that goes around from the drum and down into the turret. If that's standard ball ammo, that's 1200 pounds. If it's HE, that's 1800 pounds that's just largely sitting in the belly of this bird. So we're going to be a little nose-heavy, and so as we fly, we're constantly also transferring fuel from the forward tank to the aft tank as we're burning it, but we have to be careful with that too, because if we got a full tank in the back and half to a third of a tank in the front, now we're tail-heavy, and that makes us turn like a stuck pig, and by the time you're done with 4-6 hours of non-stop flying, your arms will be freakin sore because you're constantly pushing to bring the balance of the aircraft to something normal while you're flying so you don't dip your tail too far down.

But, if we fly with 400-700 rounds of ammo in the drum and handling-system, that's between 400 to 1000 pounds depending on ammo type, that evens things out nicely and we don't have to worry about our weight balance, and we can maneuver just fine.

When I flew in Iraq, after the main combat operations against the Iraqi Army, we didn't load up with rockets anymore (in fact, I never personally did), because rockets are not reliably accurate at all. Supporting troops on the ground with close air support means I need relatively accurate weapons, and there will be times I'd want to hit someone in a building in a window. If you don't care about hitting the broadside of a barn, shoot rockets. But, if you need to kill a sniper in a window, a laser-guided Hellfire will do the job nicely and keep your buddies on the ground out of harm's way.

So, normally, if I'm not flying with an extra fuel tank, I'd load up with 16 Hellfires. With the extra can of gas, I'm loading up with 12. An extra can of gas adds 300 pounds to one side of the aircraft, so that tips our weight balance off, but not so bad and we tend to burn that tank off first before invading our main tanks.

I know I'm getting very technical. I'll bet you never thought about weight balance before; most computer simulator games never address it.

Here's another thing - very hot weather, like in the Middle East, kills our lift ceiling. Another good reason why we don't fly with a full load of ammo. This is because the air is moving around a lot more than in colder conditions, and therefore doesn't create as solid a "ground effect" necessary to achieve good lift, which means we have to burn a bit more gas to crank more torque out of the main rotors to fly.

Oh, and you asked about the D, the Longbow. Yes, it can carry 1200 rounds. It still has the standard drum (last I heard, anyway - it's been about 10 years since I flew the Apache). But, the Longbow is a bit of a different beast than the C or A model. I like the Longbow, but that fire-control radar didn't do me any damn good fighting al Qaeda and Iranian insurgents in Iraq, nor in Afghanistan fighting Taliban. It told me where my guys on the ground were, but I could know that anyway in the A version. That thing on the top of the aircraft weighs about 200 pounds, and when it's not being useful it's practically dead weight. You may see a lot of Apaches without it, because we took it off. Really, it was just dead weight, and it served as expensive target practice for the enemy.

One more thing about the gun. That gun isn't the most accurate thing in the world, which is why we keep our bursts to 10 rounds per. The first round will go right where you want it. The others will go in this haphazard pattern in a 20 yard radius around the initial point of impact, and the longer you hold down the trigger the larger this area gets. This is bad when you need to be accurate. One of our pilots accidentally injured a fellow soldier on the ground, and our morale was swirling the toilet bowl when we heard about it. We found out that the PFC in question was just a few yards further ahead than he was supposed to be, and fortunately all he had to get was some stitches from the errant shrapnel. But man, we were devastated, and we all pitched in cash and some leave time for that kid to go off to Europe or somewhere, and I personally told him to take it (that soldier was so nice he didn't want it, but I told him "Please, private. Take this, for our sake!"). We never want to hurt anyone we don't want to, especially one of our guys, and we take that extremely seriously.

I have very mixed feelings about the M230 30mm Autocannon. On the one hand, when it worked, it was devastating. It'll kill just about anything you shoot it at short of a heavy dump truck or full cement mixer. I completely disabled a T-72 with it, by obliterating the left track and cracking the main gun. But, it's way overpowered for the airframe. We have to track every single shot that comes out of this gun because it shakes the airframe so bad. In peacetime, we'd have the aircraft checked something like after 50,000 rounds. In war, we ramped that up to 100,000, then to 150,000, because we went through ammo like it was water. I did a white paper and suggested that a new version of the Apache be fitted with the Bushmaster 25mm gun or a 20mm gun, to alleviate the stress put on the airframe, and dramatically increase its accuracy by upwards of 60%. I didn't hear back on that proposal.

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When we tried loading up with a full can of ammo, 1200 rounds, the aircraft flies like a whale, and that's without wing stores. With wing-stores, she flies like a pregnant whale.


Sir? You had me over here in stitches haha!! 

As I stated before, my knowledge is limited to what I have read and what I can find on the net therefore it's very refreshing to ACTUALLY here from an actual pilot. Never knew the operators had the ability to trim the fuel between the tanks?? I would assume aside from keeping the aircraft safe, putting the gunner in position to operate the weapons; the pilots are obviously busy as hell.

Now I'm glad you did bring a point up. The M230 chain gun. I have always wondered why that gun was so woefully inaccurate. The answer I got was "the Army wanted it that way for the scatter effect against a large contingent of troops." I have seen enough videos to see that it's hit or miss. Some videos the stream of rounds is almost in a straight line. Others, the rounds are scattered so far apart that you couldn't hit the planet. Was this a purposeful design or is it basically as you said; the weapon is too powerful for the platform?

Speaking of that gun? You are very correct in it's lethality. I have watched videos of that gun in action and the ONLY thing that will protect you from it is being inside a damn tank. I have almost felt sorry for the insurgent scum when watching that beast hunt down groups of terrorist one at a time. Hearing your buddy get shredded to bits only a few yards away and KNOWING that your time is coming very soon has got to instill terror in even the most hardcore terrorists.

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Now I'm glad you did bring a point up. The M230 chain gun. I have always wondered why that gun was so woefully inaccurate. The answer I got was "the Army wanted it that way for the scatter effect against a large contingent of troops." I have seen enough videos to see that it's hit or miss. Some videos the stream of rounds is almost in a straight line. Others, the rounds are scattered so far apart that you couldn't hit the planet. Was this a purposeful design or is it basically as you said; the weapon is too powerful for the platform?


Purposeful? If I want to be charitable, sure, it's purposeful. I don't entirely believe so. Because someone came up with the term "Area Weapon System" to describe the gun, and that sounds like creative marketing to sell to a congressman, who will have something to say to constituents. If I want that gun to cover an area, that's easy; just nod or shake your head around as you fire. You'll look stupid, but you'll get the job done.

The Army is ran by Infantry, Artillery, and Armor generals. Rarely pilots ever get a chance to voice an opinion. So they wanted something to bust tanks, and the Apache is great at that. When it came time to talk about a gun, what I imagine happened was that someone was concerned about the sheer amount of Soviet tanks that might, one day, pound their way through the Fulda Gap between East and West Germany, and that after you blow off 16 Hellfires, the only thing you got left is a gun. So they wanted something that could easily defeat certain Soviet armor, like the BMP-1 and 2.

At the same time that the Apache was in development, the A-10 Thunderbolt II was as well, and the Army really wanted the A-10. But the Air Force prevented it, and they got it, and ran off with some of the Army generals' wives in the process. Some Army general, who probably had magazines of the A-10 along with his Dad's Playboys underneath his bed, said he wanted that gun on a helicopter. Someone probably said, "That gun is as big as a Volkswagon, sir! And it fires at 4,000 rounds a minute! The helicopter would have to be bigger than the Chinook!"

"I don't care! I got to have it! Don't you understand, I need it! My wife left me for another general!"

That's probably why we have the M230. I may have embellished a little bit.

Flying the Apache is, as you can imagine, a different kind of experience than flying a normal helicopter. With normal helicopters, you're worried about how you're going to get from one place to another, how much you're carrying, and what's for dinner. That's pretty much it. After the first six months on the Apache, then we start training you for the mission, and this is a bit of a workload. Apache pilots think about two things when we fly: Women, and how we're going to attack the enemy without getting our guys on the ground killed. When we're not talking about women, we're talking about angles of attack, vectors, time over target, the weather over the target, how hot Armament platoon's women look, and how many weapons we have left.

In fact, that was one of my beefs with Fire Birds. Nicholas Cage wasn't talking about women when he was flying. Instead of muttering, "I am the greatest," he should've been saying, "Hey, the colonel's wife is a hottie," or something.

Both pilots tend to share duties, depending on the men in question. I would navigate and fly the aircraft from the backseat while the guy up front, who I called my secretary, handled all calls and blew stuff up. If I'm training a new guy, I'll have him in the front seat flying so he gets used to that, because it's a little disconcerting having to fly the aircraft from that position. You just don't have the visibility that the back-seater has and it just feels weird. I'll have him do that for about 20 hours, and we all get a try at that. Navigating from the front used to be a real pain in the butt, that is until we had manprint screens with GPS navigation.

UPDATE: One more thing about the gun I just remembered. A lot of people ask me if we ever flew with Depleted Uranium rounds, which is mainly used by the A-10. The answer is no. Each of those bullets is heavy, something like 2 pounds, and that's also due to the increased propellant inside the cartridge, which will gum up the works inside the gun itself. The metal inside the barrel is not suited to firing depleted uranium, because depleted uranium is harder, more dense than most steels, and I read a white paper from Aberdeen Proving Grounds about testing this on the M230, and it didn't take many rounds at all to wear down the rifling in the barrel!

30 mm Depleted Uranium is precisely what you want when you mean to kill a typical Soviet-made tank. That bullet will punch neatly through four inches of armor like it's nothing. But the Apache can't use it. So now we have a question as to why, if we can't kill a tank with this gun, why do we have it? Like I alluded to before - Pentagon Politics.

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Well that gun is/was doing an excellent job playing "Insurgent Wackamole" over in the middle east. Truly devastating weapon....

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