The basic soldiering skills that underpin the capabilities of the British Army's new Apache AH-64E attack helicopter have been tested on demanding live fire training.
The soldiers who supply the fuel and ammunition needed for the Apache to fly its missions have tested their ability to protect themselves while delivering stores in hostile territory. Exercise Coyote Charge has seen 669 (HQ) Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps practise fire and manoeuvre tactics, using both vehicle-mounted machine guns and on the ground.
3 Regt AAC, based at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk, is the first unit to field the AH-64E, which is a more lethal, agile, survivable and integrated helicopter than the Apache Mark 1 it replaces. It will be a key element of how the Army fights in the coming decades, as set out in the Future Soldier programme.
Major Darren Wight, Officer Commanding 669 (HQ) Sqn, said: “With the AH-64E we’re bringing into service the best attack helicopter in the world. While it’s all well and good having that aircraft, if we can't get the ammunition and fuel to it then it's effectively redundant.
“This training is the end of a five-week process to build our ethos and capabilities as soldiers, understanding that our role and responsibilities are about more than being suppliers.
"We can’t rely on someone else to protect us, and if we can fight our way forward to deliver the supplies then the helicopters can fly their missions." Major Darren Wight
3 Regiment Army Air Corps
We can’t rely on someone else to protect us, and if we can fight our way forward to deliver the supplies then the helicopters can fly their missions.”
Tactical scenarios the troops practised on the rugged Warcop Ranges in Cumbria included fighting supply convoys through ambushes and recovering pilots from a downed helicopter.
Airtrooper Lyndon Roberts operated a General Purpose Machine Gun mounted on a Logistic Support Vehicle, providing fire support to dismounted troops.
“When I’m in the cupola and we’re moving as a convoy, you’ve got an elevated position and the responsibility to keep a look out for threats,” he said. “There’s a sense of strength from being in there - you’re protected by armour plating, and you’ve got a lot of firepower in your hands to look after your colleagues.”
Airtrooper Elliott Field said: “It’s been different to do this live firing and it’s important to have all of the skills we need to do our job. I haven’t done grenade ranges and section attacks to this depth since basic training, and it’s good to practise how we would react to all sorts of different scenarios we might face on operations.”