Wargaming using a US Aero Rifle Platoon (ARP's) - the 'Blues' in Vietnam

Page Title - Air Cavalry Troop
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BACKGROUND

There was normally a single Air Cav Troop organic to each Armoured Cavalry Squadron and three Air Cav Troops organic to the Air Cav Squadron of the Airmobile Division. For a full commentary on the role and organisation of an actual Air Cavalry Troop see D Troop 3/5th Air Cavalry. An Air Cav Troop contained an Aero Weapons Platoon, an Aero Scout Platoon and an Aero Rifle Platoon.

The high proportion of Warrant Officers is due to the fact that most air crew were of this rank. In the schematic below I have only shown the 'combat' elements of the Troop - there was also a Maintenance Section and an Aviation Section.

AERO WEAPONS PLATOON

 

PLATOON HQ


1 x Captain (Pltn. CO)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
1 x AN/PRC-25
XM-28 and XM-159

1 x E-7 (Pltn, Sgt.)
1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x AN/PRC-25
XM-28 and XM-159

1 x WO (Crew Chief)
1 X e_5 (Crew Chief)
1 x AN/PRC-25
XM-28 and XM-159


AEROWEAPONS SECTION ( x2 )


1 x Lt. (Section Ldr)
1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
XM-28 and XM-159
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
XM-28 and XM-159
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

1 x Lt. (Section Ldr)
1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
XM-28 and XM-159
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
XM-28 and XM-159
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

AERO SCOUT PLATOON

PLATOON HQ


1 x Captain (Plt. CO)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27


1 x E-7 (Plt. Sgt.)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27

AEROSCOUT SECTION ( x2 )


1 x Lt. (Section CO)
1 x E-6 (Observer)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Observer)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

1 x Lt. (Section CO)
1 x E-6 (Observer)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Observer)
1 x AN/PRC-25
1 x XM-27
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)

AERO RIFLE PLATOON


1 x Lt. (Section Ldr.)
1 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
AN/PRC-25
XM-23

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
AN/PRC-25
XM-23

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
AN/PRC-25
XM-23

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
AN/PRC-25
XM-23

2 x WO (Helo Pilot)
1 x E-5 (Crew Chief)
AN/PRC-25
XM-23

ARP PLATOON HQ
1 x Captain (Plt. CO)
1 x E-7 (Plt. Sgt.)
1 x Medic
2 x RTO
2 x AN/PRC-25

 

ARP RIFLE SQUAD
1 x E-6 (Sqd. Ldr.)
2 x E-5 (Team Ldr.)
2 x E-4 (M-60 Team)
2 x E-4 (Gr'dr) M-79
2 x E-3 (Rifleman)
1 x RTO
1 x AN/PRC-25

ARP RIFLE SQUAD
1 x E-6 (Sqd. Ldr.)
2 x E-5 (Team Ldr.)
2 x E-4 (M-60 Team)
2 x E-4 (Gr'dr) M-79
2 x E-3 (Rifleman)
1 x RTO
1 x AN/PRC-25

ARP RIFLE SQUAD
1 x E-6 (Sqd. Ldr.)
2 x E-5 (Team Ldr.)
2 x E-4 (M-60 Team)
2 x E-4 (Gr'dr) M-79
2 x E-3 (Rifleman)
1 x RTO
1 x AN/PRC-25

ARP RIFLE SQUAD
1 x E-6 (Sqd. Ldr.)
2 x E-5 (Team Ldr.)
2 x E-4 (M-60 Team)
2 x E-4 (Gr'dr) M-79
2 x E-3 (Rifleman)
1 x RTO
1 x AN/PRC-25

MISSION TYPES

The Troop invariably undertook missions which can be categorized as follows:

  • INTELLIGENCE - visual reconnaissance of roads, areas, targets; bomb damage assessment (BDA); LZ reconnaissance and selection; target acquisition; Ranger/LRRP support.

  • SECURITY - providing early warning of impending attack; screening ops; first/last light reconnaissance; convoy protection; downed aircrew and aircraft recovery.

'TEAMS'

In order to carry out the various missions assigned to the Troop, the combat elements of the troop would, where necessary, be mixed, as appropriate, into teams as below.

RED TEAM
Two Gunships assigned to offensive operations.

 

WHITE TEAM
Two OH-6 assigned to recon

 

PINK TEAM
Combination Gunship and OH-6 ('Hunter Killer')

 

BLUE TEAM
Blue's embarked to carry out ground recon and security.

TACTICS

Hot LZ !Standard tactics for the aviation elements was to fly HIGH/LOW, that is, one aircraft would fly very low looking for targets or reconning the area (possibly attempting quite literally to 'draw' enemy fire in order for the enemy to reveal their positions) while the second aircraft flew at altitude providing cover, acting as the radio relay ship and giving the low flying aircraft navigational instructions. In operations involving OH-6's an OH-6 would always fly low.

The OH-6 would be in constant communication with the high flying AH-1G Gunship, feeding back data which would be annotated by the crew of the Gunship. If necessary the Gunship was always ready to 'roll in hot' in order to provide suppressive fire if the OH-6 came under attack. If the scout observed targets it would drop smoke marking rounds and the Gunship would roll in. 

TYPICAL EMPLOYMENT OF THE TROOP

The following is an example of the way the Troop worked :

  • PINK TEAM makes contact with elements of the enemy; smoke used to mark contact; contact co-ordinates are relayed to Troop HQ; Gunship engages marked targets or targets of opportunity while OH-6 keeps enemy under observation, looking in particular for route of egress or re-inforcement and making attempts to establish the composition and size of enemy force as well as their deployment and the extent of their defenses.
  • Once Troop HQ receives contact information the decision is made as to whether to deploy BLUE team; second PINK team and/or RED team is redirected to contact in order to support and/or relieve team on station. BLUE team is scrambled..

  • BLUE team inserted near contact and deploys to engage the enemy; OH-6 guides BLUE team to contact, reconning forward and to the flanks of the BLUE team; BLUE team engages the enemy supported by all ships on station.
  • Once enemy starts to withdraw RED and PINK teams continue to interdict their routes of egress; BLUE team secures area of contact and polices battlefield.
  • BLUE team is extracted, enemy is pursued by RED and PINK teams. Occasionally the ARP's ( the Aero Rifle Platoon) would be re-inserted ahead of the retreating enemy as a blocking force.

Occasionally the Blues would be inserted and then find themselves on the receiving end of determined enemy forces and usually outnumbered. In preparation for this it was common to have a regular Infantry Company on stand-by to reinforce the Blues or to be inserted as a blocking force behind the enemy which the Blues were assaulting.

COMPOSITION OF AERO RIFLE PLATOON

Riding the skids !I strongly recommend using an Aero Rifle Platoon in your Vietnam games. The Air Cav Troop supporting an ARP platoon gives you great versatility and many options. Although technically under strength compared to a platoon from a Line Infantry Company, the ARP's made up for a lack in numbers by sheer volume of firepower. The ARP's pack a punch but they are always on the verge of being outmaneuvered and overrun since they are such a small combat element.

Nonetheless, with the aerial support which they always have on station, they can engage targets which a standard infantry platoon would avoid. Having an organic lift section of UH-1's also opens up many gaming possibilities - hot insertions, hot extractions, pilot rescue, search & destroy etc. The Air Cav Troop employed as an offensive unit against company sized enemy elements or smaller  leads to some great games.

Other advantages which the ARP's 'enjoyed' as a consequence of their role, apart from being led by a captain, was extra communications equipment and a disproportionate number of NCO's. This results in greater command and control of the unit.

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See Also:

Helicopters and Helicopter Weapons for further information about the helicopters and weapon systems themselves.

The Helicopter War - substantial listing of links to web sites of US Aviation units from Vietnam

The First Team for information on the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

A History Lesson - fictional account of an operation, written by 'War Wagon 14', a pilot in 'D' Troop 3/5 Air Cav.


Sources:

Low Level Hell, Hugh L. Mills, Dell Books, ISBN0-440-21549-8
Hunter-Killer Squadron, Matthew Brennan, Pocket Books, ISBN 0-671-74453-4
The US Army in Vietnam, Leroy Thompson, David & Charles Publishers PLC, ISBN 0-7153-9219-0
Vietnam Order of Battle, Shelby Stanton, US news Books, ISBN 0-89193-700-5

US Army Armor School, Fort Knox, ST 17-1-3 - courtesy of Jerry Headley


 

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Retrieved by Memoweb from http://www.soft.net.uk/entrinet/aero_rifle.htm at 25/08/01