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Apaches operating from the deck of the USS Lewis B. Puller, March 25 (USN)

By The Maritime Executive 04-03-2020 11:49:19

A U.S. Army attack helicopter unit has been operating off the deck of the expeditionary landing base USS Lewis B. Puller in the Persian Gulf, testing out new ways to target surface vessels in conjunction with U.S. Navy forces. 

The Puller has served as a landing base platform for Army Apache helicopters while U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol ships select simulated targets for the helicopter pilots to engage. The guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton also participated in the joint trial.

“The integration of U.S. Army air weapons teams with other joint fires into the maritime environment greatly enhances our ability to expand reconnaissance and attack capability,” said Capt. Peter Mirisola, commander of Combined Task Force (CTF) 55. “The Apaches, in coordination with our surface ships, allow us to hold an adversary at high risk at extended ranges.”

The Apache AH-64E is a purpose-built attack helicopter with a 30mm automatic gun, aerial rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Last month, Navy Central Command surface assets conducted drills with Special Operations Command AC-130W Stinger II gunships, which are designed to deliver a high and sustained volume of fire to ground targets. 

Both of these aircraft classes are typically deployed in a close-air support role backing ground forces against enemy armor or personnel. While they would be vulnerable to the advanced air defense systems of a sophisticated naval surface combatant, the likeliest potential adversary in the region (Iran) relies upon large numbers of small attack boats. 

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