BACKGROUNDThere 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
AERO SCOUT PLATOON
AERO RIFLE PLATOON
The Troop invariably undertook missions which can be categorized as follows:
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.
TACTICSStandard 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 :
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 PLATOONI 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.
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.
Low Level Hell,
Hugh L. Mills, Dell Books, ISBN0-440-21549-8
US Army Armor School, Fort Knox, ST 17-1-3 - courtesy of Jerry Headley