Camp Humphreys, Corea del Sud – Lo scorso 18 Aprile, il 4th Aerial Reconnaissance Battalion (Attack) del 2nd Aviation Regiment, si e’ prodigato in una serie di aggressive esercitazioni atte a verificare la prontezza operativa. In particolare l’unita’ in oggetto – soprannominata Death Dealers – ha fatto notizia per aver eseguito un mass landing con tutte le macchine a disposizione: ben 24 Apache. Guardate che spettacolo.
Photo: U.S. Army / 2nd CAB
Il 4-2 fa parte della 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, che e’ poi la brigata di aviazione della 2nd Infantry Division “Indian Head”, unita’ che staziona ininterrottamente in Corea da ormai quasi 50 anni (senza contare la partecipazione al conflitto del 50-53).
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Una impresa simile era gia’ stata effettuata il 14 Marzo dalla pedina utility del 2nd CAB, ossia il 2nd Battalion (Assault), 2nd Aviation Regiment. Nella foto in alto potete vedere una formazione composta da 25 UH-60 Black Hawk al decollo. Photo credit: Meghan White
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Sono giorni piuttosto frenetici per gli uomini della 2nd CAB. La scorsa settimana gli elicotteri di questo reparto si trovavano nel Mar Cinese Orientale a bordo delle navi per operazioni anfibie USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) e USS Denver (LPD-9) per partecipare ad esercitazioni anfibie con il Corpo dei Marines e la 7th Fleet della US Navy.
Tre AH-64D Longbow arrivano a bordo della Bonhomme Richard.
CH-47F decolla della USS Bonhomme Richard. Notare gli MV-22 Osprey sul ponte.
Suggestiva immagine della USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). Sulla destra un Apache della 2nd CAB si accinge ad appontare.
Questa nave d’assalto anfibio appartiene alla Classe Wasp e fu commissionata nel 1998.
Elicotteri sul flight deck della USS Denver (LPD-9)
USS Denver (LPD-9)
Sea Hawk sorvola la USS Denver (LPD-9), terza unita’ della Classe Austin. La Denver, commissionata nel lontano 1968, e’ attualmente la nave piu’ anziana in servizio nella US Navy. Solo un’altra unita’ della classe Austin risulta in forza alla marina USA nel momento in cui scrivo, ossia la Ponce (AFSB-I, ex LPD-15), commissionata nel 1971.
Questa foto risale invece a fine Marzo e mostra l’appontaggio di un Black Hawk della 2nd CAB a bordo dell’incrociatore USS Lake Erie (CG 70) durante le manovre Foal Eagle 2014 nel Mar Giallo.
(Photo credits: U.S. Navy / Pacific Fleet)
Il 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry (4-6 Air Cavalry) della 16th Combat Aviation Brigade e’ giunto in Corea del Sud per il suo primo turno di rotazione di nove mesi. Nelle seguenti foto, scattate un paio di settimane fa, sono documentate le operazioni di scarico di elicotteri, mezzi e materiali avvenute al Pier 8 del porto di Busan (vedere mappa in basso). Per l’occasione il 4-6 e’ stato assistito da militari e civili del 602nd Aviation Support Battalion e 837th Transportation Battalion.
Il 4th Squadron, normalmente basato nella Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Washington), per nove mesi operera’ dall’aviosuperficie di Camp Humphreys, aggregato alla 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, ossia la brigata d’aviazione divisionale della 2nd Infantry Division. Quest’ultima si trova in Corea dal Luglio 1965, ed e’ attualmente presente in loco con tre brigate:
– 1st Brigade Combat Team “Iron Brigade” (Camp Hovey)
– 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade (Camp Humphreys)
– 210th Fires Brigade (Camp Casey)
Le altre brigate che compongono la divisione (tre, tutte Stryker) si trovano invece a Lewis-McChord.
Il gruppo di volo del 4th Squadron, 6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron si compone di 30 elicotteri Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior suddivisi in tre troop con 10 macchine ciascuna e di 380 uomini. L’unita’ e’ comandata dal Lt. Col. Brian T. Watkins, assistito dal braccio destro, il Command Sgt. Maj. Stanley W. Williams. Il 4-6, soprannominato Red Catchers, operera’ di rinforzo alla 2a Divisione di Fanteria in compiti di ricognizione, sicurezza, sorveglianza, acquisizione bersagli e attacco al suolo. Insomma, i ruoli tipici dei reparti di Air Cavalry. Una volta terminato il turno di rotazione, gli uomini ritorneranno a Lewis-McChord, mentre gli elicotteri rimarranno a Camp Humphreys a disposizione dell’unita’ designata al rimpiazzo. Esperti veterani, negli ultimi dieci anni i Red Catchers del 4-6 sono stati dispiegati in Iraq per ben due volte: dal 2003 al 2004 nell’area di Baghdad, e successivamente a Mosul, durante il famoso troop surge del 2007/2008.
Attualmente in Corea del Sud stazionano circa 28.500 uomini di Army, Navy, Air Force e Marine Corps. Di questi, 20.000 appartengono all’8th Army dell’esercito USA, mentre 8000 sono della 7th Air Force dell’USAF. L’intero dispositivo militare dipende dall’United States Forces Korea (USFK), subordinato all’United States Pacific Command (USPACOM). All’USPACOM sono assegnati permanentemente circa 330.000 uomini (di cui 80.000 dell’US Army).
Vale anche la pena di segnalare che la 2nd ID e’ l’unica divisione americana formata anche da soldati provenienti da un esercito straniero. Nel dettaglio si tratta di circa un migliaio di coscritti del Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) accuratamente selezionati e reclutati sotto il programma KATUSA(Korean Augmentation To the United States Army) per servire in reparti dell’US Army a fianco dei soldati USA.
E ora passiamo alle foto!
LE OPERAZIONI DI SCARICO
Pier 8, Porto di Busan, 6 Ottobre 2013
Alcuni del Kiowa Warrior “scartati” e pronti per partire verso la nuova base: Camp Humphreys
L’arrivo a Camp Humphreys
Il bitorzoluto Kiowa Warrior, qui con lanciarazzi e HellFire.
Cerimonia in uno degli hangar di Camp Humphreys. Sullo sfondo l’emblema della 2nd Infantry Division “Indian Head”. Questa unita’ ha un particolare legame con la Corea. Oltre ad aver partecipato al conflitto del 1950-53, e’ inintenrottamente presente sul suolo coreano da quasi 50 anni.
L’aviosuperficie di Camp Humphreys, sede della 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade (Google Maps)
Black Hawk della 2nd CAB (Google Maps)
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2nd Infantry Division/2nd Combat Aviation Brigade/US Army
Visto che sono in “trip” da Mohawk, posto un articolo di Air & Space Magazine sugli ultimi OV-1 dell’US Army, gli occhiuti ricognitori del 38° Parallelo.
The Last of the Mohawks
Grumman’s triple-tail, bug-eyed, heat-seeking camera platform.
* By John Sotham
* Air & Space Magazine, March 01, 1997
Korea’s demilitarized zone is the world’s most elaborate tripwire, a ravaged strip of mine fields, barbed wire, and tank traps designed to slow an invasion. From fortified positions south of the zone, U.S. and Republic of Korea soldiers peer northward as if watching a long-dormant volcano for signs of eruption. They know that North Korea could react at any moment to its current dire economic condition by launching a military foray into the South.
But for years U.S. commanders have relied on a set of eyes that look deep into the north from a vantage point high overhead and miles south of the DMZ. These eyes can instantly spot any vehicle movements and record them on film that is processed in seconds to be scanned and relayed to the ground. If even one truck were to move anywhere within a vast area to the north, U.S. commanders on the ground would know it within minutes. This powerful vision belongs to a combat-proven airborne radar system, and the system is mounted aboard one of the oddest looking tactical aircraft that has ever served the United States in combat: the Grumman OV-1 Mohawk. The Mohawk is also the only fixed-wing aircraft ever built specifically for the U.S. Army since the Air Force became a separate service in 1947. In September 1996, it flew its last mission over Korea and was retired after nearly 40 years of operations in two wars over some of the most hotly contested geography on the planet. Despite its distinguished service record, the Mohawk remains largely unknown outside the small communities of men and women who flew, maintained, and loved the small, ungainly-looking aircraft.
“It’s an unsung hero,” says Russ Wygal, a pilot with the Army’s 224th Military Intelligence Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, the last stateside unit to fly the Mohawk. Wygal says that when he tells people he flew an OV-1, they often confuse it with the North American OV-10 Bronco, a twin turboprop developed specifically for counter-insurgency campaigns like the Vietnam war. “Then I have to describe what it looks like,” he says. “It’s not like an F-14 Tomcat, where everybody goes, ‘Ooo, aah, Top Gun.'”
The OV-1 finally retired because it had been superseded by newer systems, newer aircraft, and the evolution of the satellite, which had been little more than a symbol of cold war one-upmanship when the Mohawk made its first flight on April 14, 1959. The OV-1 was designed to meet a joint Marine Corps-Army requirement for a short-takeoff-and-landing battlefield surveillance aircraft. It was intended to operate close to the front lines in support of unit commanders, and after the Marines dropped out of the project, development was continued for the Army. The first version, designated OV-1A, was configured to provide a platform for photographic and visual reconnaissance. Because form followed function, the result was an airplane with a large, bulbous cockpit, slender fuselage, and odd triple-tail arrangement; it looked like a cross between a helicopter, an airplane, and an insect.
The initial design called for a T-tail, with the horizontal stabilizer set atop the vertical fin, but because the aircraft had handling problems at low speed, Grumman adopted the Lockheed Connie-style three-tail arrangement. Two Lycoming turboprop engines sit atop the Mohawk’s wings. Like many multi-engine airplanes, its engines are canted outward to improve handling when the aircraft is flown on only one engine. But Wygal, who was required to practice single-engine flight during training, likened the rudder pedal force required opposite the dead engine to being “in a gym doing leg presses with only one leg. It’s very demanding.”
The OV-1’s roomy cockpit features large, bulging side windows that give the airplane a bug-eyed appearance and allow an unobstructed view of the ground immediately below. The pilot sits on the left, and a technician or observer sits on the right. Unlike other tactical aircraft in which the crew sat side by side, like the Air Force’s F-111 or the Navy and Marine Corps’ A-6, right-seaters on the Mohawk were almost always members of the enlisted ranks rather than officers. They were primarily responsible for monitoring the panoramic camera and surveillance systems while providing another set of eyes to scan the terrain below. Once it was in the air, there were no blind spots below: “You can lift the Mohawk 35 feet in the air and the pilot’s vision and observer’s vision will converge at a point directly underneath the aircraft,” says Joel L. DiMaggio, who, as a Grumman production line worker, began an association with the Mohawk that would last the lifespan of the airplane.
The next version, the OV-1B, incorporated side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), which would ultimately shape one of the airplane’s primary missions throughout its service life. The radar’s antenna was contained within a long boom–like a big railroad tie–that was mounted below and to the right of the fuselage centerline, giving the Mohawk an even gawkier appearance. As the airplane flies along its assigned track, the radar creates a strip map of the terrain below and on either or both sides of the track. With this system, the Mohawk also gained the ability to detect moving targets, which would prove immeasurably valuable in Vietnam, along the borders of the former East Germany, along the DMZ in Korea, and ultimately, during the Gulf War. Over the relatively open terrain of Korea and Europe, Mohawks gathered SLAR intelligence by repeatedly flying over the same tactical areas and comparing the images.
“The reason you do it every day is that [the SLAR] is a surveillance and intelligence system, rather than just a target locating system,” DiMaggio says. “You start out with a clean slate, look out there, and make a count on a road in East Germany, for instance, that normally has a certain number of vehicles going from one point to another. When things get hot, you begin to see more vehicles in different places–that’s how you gather intelligence: by noting changes.” DiMaggio, who after working on the Mohawk assembly line served four years in Germany and a year in Vietnam as a Grumman field representative, says that Mohawks could detect trucks and vehicles with SLAR and, using their infrared detectors, the hot engines of vehicles under cover at night. Once they were located by Mohawks, the targets could be attacked by fighter aircraft.
Successful SLAR missions required the Mohawk to provide an extremely stable platform while the radar scanned the land below, so most were flown on autopilot. However, straight-and-level is not the preferred flight orientation for a combat pilot. “It made you a sitting duck,” said Gerry Durnell, who flew the OV-1 in Vietnam.
The OV-1C was the first Mohawk to be equipped with infrared systems, and they proved valuable for detecting Viet Cong guerrilla units, which were normally small, mobile, and hard to find. “The infrared Mohawks were able to pick up the heat from VC cooking fires,” says Paul Reed, a former imagery analyst with both the Army and the Central Intelligence Agency. “There were a lot of VC that got very upset when artillery rounds came in on them while they were fixing breakfast.”
The Mohawk’s technological complexity gradually increased, but not the low-level, in-the-dirt nature of its missions. For pilots like Bob White, vegetation provided great protection as long as you kept the trees away from your wings. White was shot down while on a visual reconnaissance mission over the Mekong Delta in 1969. “We were real low, which was okay as long as you stayed close to the trees so you weren’t in view very long. But we came out over an open area, and I’m sure that’s when I got hit.” White, who estimates he was at 50 feet and 150 knots when small arms fire set his right engine ablaze, suffered a compression fracture in his back when he ejected. He was captured and became a POW.
When they weren’t dodging trees or hostile fire, Mohawk pilots were coping with acute discomfort. “You’d just be ringing wet in the summertime, which was most of the time in Vietnam,” Durnell says. Before they were equipped with air conditioning, Mohawks had only vents that let in blasts of outside air, and the huge expanse of plexiglass turned the cockpit into a greenhouse.
In addition to their Vietnam and European service, SLAR-equipped Mohawks began operational missions in 1963 patrolling the 151-mile-long DMZ separating North and South Korea. “Until they were retired recently, they had been flying the same mission [in Korea] day and night for the past 32 years,” says Reed, who was responsible for writing the operations plans to place the first Mohawk unit in Korea. The Army is currently flying a militarized version of the de Havilland DH-7 turboprop commuter airliner equipped with a SLAR system until JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) aircraft, converted Boeing 707s with powerful side-looking radar, begin patrolling the DMZ. The difference between the capability of the Mohawk and JSTARS “is like comparing the abacus to the computer,” DiMaggio says.
While many associated with the Mohawk understand the necessity to replace aging airframes and technology, some still question how quickly the information the Mohawk used to provide to front-line small-unit commanders will be distributed with new systems. “The Mohawk means more control on a smaller level,” says Gulf War veteran Benny Hardman, a former Mohawk pilot and maintenance officer. “It seems to me that in the military intelligence field, it’s going to be much more difficult for good, quick, accurate information to filter down to the battalion commander’s level with JSTARS.”
Mohawks were to get one last chance to fly the type of battlefield support mission they were designed for. Mike Summerville, who spent more than six months in Saudi Arabia as an OV-1 crew chief and flightline supervisor during the Gulf War, says the Mohawk was tested by long missions and harsh conditions. As the conflict intensified, Mohawks from stateside and European military intelligence units were deployed to the Gulf to begin flying reconnaissance sorties. Summerville’s unit deployed 16 aircraft across the North Atlantic to the Gulf region, flew 10- to 12-hour missions around the clock, and returned to Fort Hood, Texas, without losing an aircraft. “Grumman Iron Works–that’s the whole way to describe it, plain and simple,” Summerville says, citing the time-honored slogan of reverence for Grumman-built aircraft.
Yet missions took their toll on men and machine alike. “When I didn’t fly a mission, I was usually on the phone or the fax machine at night looking for parts,” Hardman says. Hardman and his fellow pilots benefitted from field modifications to the Mohawk’s SLAR boom, which was used to pinpoint Iraqi vehicle movements. “The Motorola guys helped us tweak the SLAR system out to its maximum range,” Hardman says. The Mohawks flew pre-determined courses over friendly and unfriendly territory constantly scanning the desert for vehicle movements. In addition, special RV-1D Mohawks equipped to collect electronic-signal intelligence pinpointed and reported the location of Iraqi radar systems.
Crews of SLAR-equipped Mohawks provided instant intelligence results to airborne command and control aircraft and were data-linked to ground-based imagery analysts. “We could report ‘Fifty movers along a ridge line,’ for instance, and they could send an inbound sortie to attack the target,” Hardman says. “We also talked to AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft], who would let us know when there was a fast-moving aircraft coming in. Then we’d decide if we wanted to break track and get out of there.”
Despite the Mohawks’ dependable service in the desert, what the world saw on television were guided missiles piercing hangars and flying down airshafts while the OV-1s and their crews remained where they always were–in the background. “There were Mohawks in the air 24 hours a day, but they got absolutely no recognition,” Reed says.
Exclusion from the headlines in its last campaign served only to strengthen the close-knit Mohawk fraternity. Its members became closer still when the OV-1’s retirement came and went without fanfare. For most Americans, it was like the passing of a distant relative: It’s hard to miss someone you never really knew. As the OV-1 was withdrawn from service in steps–first in Europe in 1992, then from Korea in September 1996, and finally, after retirement ceremonies during that same month, in Savannah, Georgia–there remained only one place for Mohawk lovers to turn. Elvis fans have their Graceland. Film buffs head west to Hollywood. For “Mohawkers,” there’s Anoka County Airport, north of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Former Mohawk pilot Mike Langer, founder of the American Wings Air Museum, oversees a growing collection of aircraft used for reconnaissance, training, forward air control, and liaison, including 12 Mohawks in various stages of completion or restoration. The museum had three flyable Mohawks until a 90-mph wind gust severely bent one airplane’s right main landing gear.
A partially restored Mohawk procured through a chance encounter with a military surplus catalog rests in the museum’s hangar. “In paging through the catalog,” Langer says, “I found that one of the aircraft available was the same Mohawk that I had put in at least half of my flight time in Vietnam. I said, ‘I’ve got to have it, and I don’t care if it never flies again’.I’ve got to have it.'”
Langer, who had gained restoration experience working on a Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, submitted the winning bid and trucked the airplane to Minnesota. Seeking help from Grumman officials, Langer received technical manuals and drawings but was told that only a non-profit museum or foundation was likely to obtain new parts. “I thought, there are a lot of little one-horse and one-hangar museums, particularly in the Midwest, and I’ve been able to pigeonhole enough interesting stuff in the last 15 years, so why don’t I form a museum?” Langer says.
After four years spent securing donations and getting legal details ironed out, the American Wings Air Museum was born. Due in part to his insistence that the museum focus on the type of aircraft Langer and his volunteers knew best, the organization’s credibility grew. “Our charter is four-fold: We’re into photo reconnaissance, gunships, forward air control, and trainers,” Langer says. “We’re fairly knowledgeable, and we’re beginning to be pretty respected in those areas.”
Bob Johnson, a former Mohawk crew chief who served in Vietnam, knew nothing about the Mohawk Association, but three years ago, a Mohawk flew over his house near an airport hosting a fly-in. “I just couldn’t believe it,” Johnson says. “I hadn’t seen one since 1971.” Johnson hurried to the airport, met Langer, and has been a faithful Saturday volunteer ever since.
“We do things right, by the book,” says Dave Mattsson. A Northwest Airlines mechanic, Mattsson maintains all the operational Martin-Baker ejection seats found in the museum’s Mohawks. “If I’m gonna go up in one of these things, I want to trust the pilot, and if I’ve got an escape system, I want to trust that too.”
“Mohawks aren’t going to retire up here,” says Mike Summerville. “This will always be a home for them as long as there’s someone to fly them and maintain them.” The turboprop whine of the OV-1 may have been silenced by decisions made in distant Pentagon offices, but after the close of a 37-year career, the story will continue, at least as long as there are evenings and weekends free for Langer’s volunteers to turn a wrench.
L’AN/PVS-2 e’ stato il primo dispositivo di visione notturna passivo per armi leggere distribuito su larga scala. Il filmato mostra brevi sequenze girate negli USA, DMZ (Corea) e Vietnam sul finire degli anni sessanta. Il PVS-2 fu impiegato sopratutto sugli M14, M16 e nei fucili di precisione XM/M21.
Lt. Harold Colladay, 67th FBS, 1953, Korea (Photo: Harold Colladay)