D Troop 3/5 Air Cavalry, Vietnam

Page Title - Air Cavalry Troop
Grunt Logo - Grunt in Cover
D Troop, 3/5th Air Cavalry
Submitted by Don Armstrong

I. Introduction

The  purpose, operation,  mission, composition, and a typical day's operation of D troop 3/5 Cav.

II. Mission

To extend by aerial means the reconnaissance and security capabilities of the ground units. To engage in offensive defensive, or delaying actions within its capability and to seize and dominate lightly defended areas or terrain features. * (note: real mission was to search and destroy.)

III. Composition

A. TOE Authorized
            1. 216 enlisted men
            2. 14 officers
            3. 36 warrant officers

B. TOE Actual
            1. 221 enlisted
            2. 18 officers
            3. 29 warrant officers

C. Aircraft
            1.   8 UH-1H lift ships
            2. 10 OH6 scout ships
            3.   9 AH-1G cobras

D. Troop makeup
            1. Hq section
            2. Aero Scout Platoon (War Wagons)
            3. Aero Weapons Platoon (Crusaders)
            4. Aero Lift Platoon (Longknives)
            5. Aero Rifle Platoon (Doughboys)
            6. Maintenance Platoon (Scavengers)

IV. Platoon Makeup & Tactics

1. Scout Platoon (Warwagons)

A. 2 Sections
            (1)    2 teams each section
            (2)    2 ships each team

B. OH6 Armament
            (1)   M60 on bunji cord-operated by door gunner
            (2)   4000 rounds per minute mini gun operated  by pilot
            (3)   40 lbs of explosives
                        (a)  frags
                        (b) CS gas
                        (c) smoke
                        (d)  baby bombs-also known as W.W.A.S. (Warwagon air assault)
                                [1] 1 lb tnt 2 lbs C4
                                [2] 1 lb C4 a can of transmission fluid.

C. Tactics:

The scouts are given an area to work by the C & C (command and control) A/C. Only 1 team will work an area at any one time. They move into an area at tree top level and check any suspicious areas thoroughly. Some of the things the scout looks for are fresh trails, military clothing and equipment, fresh activity in abandoned areas and suspicious military age males. To help the scout to perform his mission of finding and killing VC, he uses a variety of armament which are utilized to blow bunkers, clear underbrush and kill VC. The lead scout is the one that does most of the work. The trail scout ship is closely behind the lead to give him cover at all times, and in case the lead is shot down the trail ship will be right there to pick up the downed crew. Some of the other function of the scout team was to screen for troops moving into an area, giving them constant air cover. Also, the scouts will pick out a suitable LZ  for lift ships to insert troops.

2. Aero Weapons Platoon (Crusaders)

A. 2 sections
            (1) 2 teams to each section
            (2) 2 ships to each team

B. AH-1G armament
            (1) 2-M59 Rocket Pods holding 19 rockets
            (2) 2-M27 Rocket Pods holding 7 rockets
            (3) 1 XM-28 turrent
                        (a) 1 mini gun- 1500 RPM, or 4,000 RPM
                        (b) 40 mm - 340 RPM
                        (c) or any combination of the above

C. Tactics

(1) The cobra is a vital part of the Aero weapons platoon. The aircraft commander is in charge of the aircraft and sits in the rear seat and controls the firing of the rockets. The gunner (also a lot) pilot control the firing  of the turret and sits up front.  He can also fly from the front seat to relieve the pilot.

(2) As with the scouts, the cobras only have 1 team on station at any one time (usually). The cobras cover the scouts in the A/O (area of operation) and usually orbit around them about 1200 feet. Anytime the scouts call "taking fire", the lead cobra automatically rolls in to cover the scouts exit out of the area. While the lead cobra is rolling in the gunner in the front seat is already putting down a heavy volume of mini gun fire into the area the scouts received fire. When the lead ship is in position he fires rockets into the area. Also at this time the trail cobra is putting rockets into the area to cover the leads break and to keep constant fire in the area. By the time the trail ship is ready to break the lead cobra has already gained altitude and is ready cover the trails break.

This cycle can continue until the cobras feel it's safe for the scouts to return or until the target is destroyed. Some of the other functions of the cobras is to cover the lift ships on insertions and extractions, and to destroy targets given to them by either the scouts or the ground troops. The cobras can provide close support to the ground commander.

3. Lift Platoon (Longknives)

A. UH-1H

2 sections with 7 ships for each section

B. Lift

UH-H (Huey) carries 2 M60 machine guns, troop capacity 8 U.S. or 10 ARVN

C. Tactics

The lift platoon uses 4 A/C to carry troops. They usually will fly a staggered formation or trail formation. The main purpose of the lift platoon is to insert and extract troops into the LZ. The lift ships are usually staged out of a staging area which is usually a base camp close to the AO. Another function of the lift ships is to be used as a medevac, or ash and trash missions.

4. The Aero Rifle Platoon (Doughboys)

A. 4 squads - 40 men (10 men each squad)

B. Armament

        (1) 8 45 cal pistols
        (2) 8 M-79's
        (3) 32 M-16 rifles

C. Tactics

The Doughboys are equipped and trained to be ground pounders. Their main purpose is to give a ground reconnaissance of areas that the scout ships cannot check out by air. They are strictly a recon element. They are not a main fighting force and only about 32 soldiers are inserted at any one time. They can handle small numbers of VC. Anything of a larger size would have to be dealt with by a regular infantry company which would be brought in by an Assault Helicopter Company. Another function of the Doughboys (outside of details) is to secure any of our downed aircraft until it can be extracted.

5. Maintenance Platoon (Scavengers)

  A. 4 sections and a platoon Hq
                        (1) A/C maint section
                                (a) Cobra maint team
                                (b) Huey maint team
                                (c) LOH maint team

                        (2) Allied Shops section
                                (a) engine shop
                                (b) prop and rotor shop
                                (c) sheet metal shop
                                (d) electrical shop
                                (e) avionics shop

                        (3) Armament Section
                                (a) Cobra armament
                                (b) LOH armament

                        (4) Tec supply section

B. Mission

To maintain and repair our A/C. 110 soldiers sometimes working 24 hours a day.

V. Typical Days Operation.

During the night the aviation battalion TOC will give our troop operations a mission. The crews are already scheduled for the next days operation. Wake up 4:15 a.m. shower, shave and eat breakfast. Briefing is at 5:15 a.m. for the lead scouts, lead cobra pilots, and lead lift pilots. At this time they are briefed on the mission and any special instructions. Meanwhile the "Pete's" are out preflighting their aircraft.

The troop takes off at 0600 a.m. and reports to the staging field at 0700 hrs. The mission commander goes into the TOC to receive his briefing on the days mission. At this time he meets his backseat (US Advisor) and the ARVN counterpart. The backseat has given us several areas that he would like to check out. At this time the mission commander will ask for "free fire" in those areas and rules of engagement. Also the U.S. Advisor will indicate where the ARVN Troops are located and if there are any friendly troops in the area.

We have been given several areas along the canal to check out.  These have been designated as free fire areas. The scouts move into the area along the canal checking for camouflaged hooches and bunkers and dropping CS into those areas with fresh activity around them. Meanwhile the C & C aircraft is orbiting about 800 feet above the scouts and the cobras are covering the scouts at 1120 ft. (commonly called cutting doughnuts).

After working about an hour the scouts report a lot of fresh signs and activity. The lead scout has taken fire and the cobras are "inbound". The scouts return into the area for damage assessment and continue to work the area. The scouts just reported that this would be a good area to insert troops. The mission commander agrees and coordinates with the backseat and he in turn gets approval from his counterpart. The mission commander cranks up the lift ships to bring the troops out into the A.O.. Meanwhile the scouts have found a good L.Z. near the area, to be checked out. The lift ships are in the area and called "on long  final" The scouts drop smoke in the L.Z. and depart the area. The cobras's pick up the lift ships (they're in position behind and high above the slicks and lay down continuous fire into the tree line in case they receive fire). The slicks are on the ground and men are coming out. The lead cobra  has broke right and the trail has picked up the slicks to cover their exit from the L.Z.. As soon as the lift ships are clear the cobras break off and cover the scouts who have moved back into the area to give constant air cover to the ground troops. The troops are moving slowly into the area. They have come across a few hooches and are continue into the target area. The ground troops have reported coming into thick underbrush that has slowed them up. They have also reported finding several booby traps and bunkers. The ground troops also confirmed two KBA's for the scouts.

The troops are moving back out into the P.Z. and are waiting for the slicks. The scouts move out of the area and the cobras again pick up the lift ships for the extraction.

The troops have been extracted and are being returned to their base camp. The scouts make a final check to see that no one was left behind.

The mission commander notices that there isn't much daylight left and asks for a release from the backseat, which he gets and then returns the backseat and counterpart back to their base camp. It's already 1903 hrs and the troop reaches Vinh Long at 2000 hrs.- refuel, rearm fill out forms and do a good post flight.

The mission commander returns to operations to spend another hour filling out after action reports .

This concludes a typical day.      


 Grunt Logo - Grunt in Cover

This article was taken from the D Troop 3/5th Air Cavalry web site and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Don Armstrong. This material is copyright of that site.

See Also:

The Helicopter War - a page of links to US Helicopter Unit sites
Aero-Rifle Platoon
- a page about using an Aero-Rifle Platoon in games
US Helicopters
- diagrams and performance details of US Helicopters
US Helicopter Weapons Systems
- diagrams and descriptions of helicopter armaments
A History Lesson
- an article recounting an actual engagement, written by the Scout Pilot 'War Wagon 14'
US Divisional Armored Cavalry
- a whole section covering the Line Troops of the Armored Cavalry Squadron



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