Armed Forces - a7a1.1 - Tasks of Army Aviation




All attack aviation assets are grouped within 16 Air Assault Brigade. Aviation Attack Regiments are equipped with both Attack Helicopters (AH) and Utility Helicopters (UH). The primary role of the unit is to provide the firepower and enabling capabilities around which combined arms manoeuvre operations can be conducted. Attack Helicopters are a manoeuvre weapon system, and have three main tasks:

a. Attack tasks
b. Armed Reconnaissance tasks
c. Security tasks


Combat Support Aviation tasks are undertaken by Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) in two inter-related categories:

In support of Attack Helicopters

Light utility helicopters provide the primary means to undertake battle procedures in support of the attack helicopter element. In so doing, they equate to the ground vehicles that support battle procedures within armoured regiments. Examples of light utility helicopter tasks in direct support of attack aviation are:

Command and Control (C2) - as an integral element of aviation missions.
Reconnaissance - For forward operating base/forward arming and refuelling points as a precursor to a full ground reconnaissance.
Sustainment - Movement between forward operating base/forward arming and refuelling points etc of aircrew, attack helicopter role equipment, ordnance and so on.

In support of other elements of the Field Army

Where limited forces are required to control large areas, domination by observation and a physical presence in the air can be the most efficient and effective way of conducting manoeuvres.

This technique has been used for several years in Northern Ireland and in The Balkans. There are also very specific combat support requirements for light utility helicopters in air manoeuvre operations where for example, all elements of 16 Brigade rely on helicopters for conducting their operations.

Typically these tasks include:

Tactical Mobility - Deployment and recovery of discrete tactical groups, particularly in the preparatory stages of manoeuvre operations such as: engineer reconnaissance and preparation; patrol insertion/extraction; harbour parties; air defence detachments etc.

Command - The movement of a commander to the right place in battle whilst retaining command during high tempo operations. Divisional, brigade and battlegroup commanders can be supported in this way.

Communications - Light utility helicopters can be employed as a communications platform providing radio relay and rebroadcast.

C2 (Command and Control) Support - Light utility helicopters provide a means of rapid movement between headquarters and units for key C2 staff and equipment. They also provide a relatively secure method for transporting classified and security materiel (eg crypto).

Control of Fire - Although the control of fire can be carried out from attack helicopters, light utility helicopters can also be used to provide this capability, in support of both ground and air manoeuvre forces.

Light utility helicopters can provide tactical mobility for forward observation officer (FOO) parties, artillery tactical groups and forward air control (FAC) parties within the forward battle area. The size of these parties is normally two to six strong, and the need to observe targets requires a high degree of fieldcraft on the part of the light utility helicopter crew.

Light utility helicopter crews can undertake fire control duties when FOO and FAC parties are unavailable. This is also applicable to attack helicopter crews, but it is unlikely that attack helicopters will be available for these tasks in support of ground manoeuvre.

Light utility helicopters can provide airborne fire control for Joint Air Attack Team operations (JAAT).

ISTAR Support (Integrated, Surveillance, Target Acquisition Radar) - Light utility helicopters provide a form of manned reconnaissance, whereby the crew, together with their observation devices are capable of acquiring information, interpreting it, and reacting to that information.

Helicopter reconnaissance is complementary to manned ground reconnaissance; each inter-reacts to produce different facets of an overall capability. Helicopter reconnaissance has very high mobility and speed of reaction, but it cannot supply the same degree of endurance as ground based reconnaissance.

ISTAR support tasks are those where the aircraft provides tactical mobility for a ground based element, but where the aircraft sensors and crew can also assist and enhance the reconnaissance task of the ground troops being carried (seeing over the hill).

Some examples of light utility helicopter ISTAR tasks are: screens, observation posts, point reconnaissance, route reconnaissance, area reconnaissance, battlefield damage assessment. Examples of ISTAR support tasks are: formation and battlegroup reconnaissance, engineer reconnaissance, air defence reconnaissance, nuclear, chemical and biological reconnaissance.

Combat Recovery
- Light utility helicopters can be used for the recovery, not just of aircrew, but of all military personnel. This may be undertaken through a formal process, but may also be an immediate ad-hoc task undertaken on behalf of a supported unit or formation.

- A wide range of tasks can be undertaken by light utility helicopters in sustaining formations and units. Some require tactical movement in forward areas where the relatively small size of light utility helicopters is an advantage.

Others, although relatively straightforward transport tasks, are more suited to light utility helicopters when movement by larger transport helicopter would be unwieldy or impractical. Examples of sustainment tasks for light utility helicopters are: casualty evacuation; movement of individuals or small parties; movement of freight such as ordnance or ammunition within the forward battle area.

The AAC Centre at Middle Wallop in Hampshire acts as a focal point for all Army Aviation, and it is here that the majority of corps training is carried out. Since mid-1997, elementary flying training for all three services has been taking place at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire.

Although the AAC operates some fixed-wing aircraft for training, liaison flying and radar duties, the main effort goes into providing helicopter support for the land forces. About 230 AAC helicopters are in service and as of late 1999 (the last year for which accurate figures are available) the Army Air Corps had approximately 3,200 personnel. There is an establishment figure for 544 trained pilots and at the beginning of 1999 there was a shortfall of 44.