Task Force Hawk -- Lessons Learned in Albania

June 21, 1999

Comment: #288

Discussion Thread:  #280


[1]George C. Wilson, "Army Admits Its Apache Outfit Was Not Ready Enough to Fight in Kosovo," LEGI-SLATE News Service, June 18. 1999.

[2] Erin Q. Winograd, "4th ID Deputy CG Says Task Force Hawk Has Exposed Aviation Weaknesses," Inside The Army, June 21, 1999, Pg. 1.

[3] Task Force Hawk Lessons Learned Report (email received June 16, 1999) Attached.

In Reference #1, George Wilson, the dean of defense reporters, describes an Army General's Lessons Learned Report on the Task Force Hawk deployment of Apache helicopters to Albania last April. In Reference #2 Erin Winograd of Inside the Army provides a second report on this lessons learned report. Together, these reports will help you decipher Reference #3, which is the original lessons learned report, which took the form of an email sent to the Vice Chief of Staff.

This unclassified email lessons learned report is circulating widely on the internet among a host of congressional staffers, defense contractors, and retired as well as active duty military officers in all services, not to mention the press. It was prepared by Brig General Dick Cody, Asst Div Cdr, 4th INF DIV at Hood, for the incoming Army Chief of Staff, Army, General Shinseki.

I asked a friend, a former helicopter pilot and special forces grunt with considerable combat time in Vietnam to put his spin on Reference #3. He said

-----[begin quote]-------.

That USA is operating aviation units where commanders (05's) have such low flight time is unbelievable.

This communication seems to say that pilots three years out of flight school have 500 hours (or less). This is a disaster waiting to happen. In my day a pilot one year out of flight school had an average of 1200 hours (much of it contact, poor/marginal weather and combat).

Ok Viet Nam is not around any more, but this piece says that after three years today's pilots have less than one half the flight time of 30 years ago. It used to be an article of faith that the most dangerous pilots were those who had accumulated between 100 and 1000 hours of total time. Therefore all the services tried to get junior aviators as many hours as quickly as possible.

Today's aircraft (both fixed and rotary) are much more complicated and pilots are called on to perform many more tasks. To attempt to do this with so little time is asking for trouble.

To use pilots with so little time as FAC's [forward air contollers] is another manifestation of this basic experience problem. The FACs are the people you depend upon to get ordinance on target while keeping it off of friendlies. They need extensive experience with both the aircraft (in order to understand how they can best be employed) and how people on the ground work in order that they may best be protected. If you remember from Viet Nam days, even the USAF used to send pilots to spend some time with USA/USMC ground units in order that they (the pilots) better understand the problems of the people on the ground. To utilize this information takes experience.

It appears from the writer's comments that there are many technical problems with the Apache. These problems do not appear to manifest themselves in training as it is now conducted. This, in it self is a very troubling problem. The apparent fact that the Apache does not have the range to perform real world missions calls into question the specifications under which it was acquired. That this problem was well known since Desert Storm (at last count over eight and a half years ago) and still has not been addressed again raises questions about leadership of the USA.

A main question is why low time, uncertified pilots and unit commanders were what was sent into Albania in the first place?

--------[end quote]------

Perhaps my friend is a little too outspoken -- ex-special ops types have that tendency. Read Reference #3 and judge for yourself .

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 3

Task Force Hawk -- Lessons Learned in Albania

by BG Dick "Commander" Cody,
Asst Div Cdr, 4th INF DIV at Hood
at the request of Vice Chief of Staff, Army-Shinseki.
Date: Uncertain, email rec'd June 16, 1999

{Note: I have added terms in [ ]'s to explain acronym or abbreviation ...CS}

I. Issue: Lack of Aviator (pilot) experience


A review of the aviators in 2-6 and 6-6 Cav revealed that over 65% of the assigned aviators had less than 500 hours; none were NVG [night vision goggles] qualified in the CPG position [co-pilot-gunner the secondary flying position]; both sqdns had several LT's (>10) [low qualification rating] assigned as FAC2 [Flight Activity Code 2] on Sqdns' staff, they either had just come from PL [platoon leader] positions or were brand new to the unit serving on staff...none of the previous Lt PLs on staff had achieved PIC status [Pilot In Command status -- like having a captain who never qualified his tank on a gunnery range commanding a tank company]. None of the troop Cdrs were PICs.

Both units were short warrant officers and had to be augmented with 11 crews from the 229th.This situation is not unusual.....in fact I have seen the same here at Ft Hood and at Ft Campbell.

The bottom line, from my perspective...we are not growing our young aviation leaders well enough in the first 3 years after flight school. The results are young Cpts emerging from the Adv Course, with little flight experience and little aviation "savvy" on what right looks like, going into command and most importantly, we are placing them and their unit at risk when we have to ramp up for a real world crisis. After16 full-up MRE's [mission rehersal exercizes] I would put the TF Hawk pilots and commanders up against anyone...but it was painful and high risk [during] the first three weeks in Albania.


We need to put some "teeth" into the professional development of LT's on their 1st aviation assignment. Cdr's should not be allowed to assign LTs to a FAC2 position without some specific "gates" achieved by that LT; PIC and 500+ hours looks good to me. This is clearly a leadership and command issue....I have seen it work, but right now we are at a crucial time in our branch history, because we now have several young LTCs [Lt Colonels] coming up into command who were never PICs, have less than 1000 hours of flight time and they are the ones developing the next group...and they do not know what right looks like either.

In the interim, I think we need to start keeping data on the current Advance Course LTs and CPTs...those that do not meet those gates should be screened and those with potential should be given refresher/certification training at Ft Rucker to make PIC before they are sent back to the field where they will command troops. Additionally, I believe we need to aggressively revamp/revitalize Aviation PCC...it needs to focus on preparing Bn and Bde Cdrs on balancing Leading, Training, Maintaining and Caring of aviation units. We need to review LLs from most recent crisis' and major deployments and work those into PCC curriculum so that when the LTC/Cols take command they know what right looks like and will be competent enough to lead, coach, train and mentor the next generation of aviation leadership.

II. Issue: Standardized MRE's (Mission Rehearsal Exercise)


We have seen now for B-H [Bosnia-Herzogovina] and for Albania the real benefits of well developed, combat relevant, tough, and challenging MREs for aviation units. For TF Hawk we developed several scenarios for combat, built from specific Battle Tasks we knew were mission critical; Battle Tasks like Troop actions RP [release point] inbound to the ABF, FATCOW operations, integration of C2 UH60, DAART integration, employment of UAV and TOPSCENE for mission planning, preplanned and on call SEAD/JSEAD;

But the centerpiece of the MREs were built around the Mission Execution Checklists which we designed for Synching all elements of the TF. The Mission Execution Checklists were the forcing functions for TF, Sqdn and Trp Mission Rehearsals. The 100 series Mission Planning Checklist (DOCC) covers all staff and unit actions starting from F-76 hours to F-3; the 200 series (Mission Execution Checklist) covers major unit and staff actions from F-3 through Mission Complete.


We need to capture those Mission Rehearsal Exercise TTP's from TF Hawk .. look at the TCS and where they are appropriate put them into our manuals. The process developed by TF Hawk, between the DOCC, the ACE, the Regt/Bde and the executing Sqdns for target decision, tracking and vetting, coupled with the "rock drills" should be captured and validated...if appropriate they should be shared with the 21st Cav as they train the LBA battalions.

As we look past FY 2000 and the full integration of ABCS (AFATDS, ASAS, MCS, AMDWS, TAIS & AMPS) [these are computer battlefield information systems] we need to insure that the sensor-shooter links are supported by the right DOCC-Avn Bde-DIVARTY decide-detect-track-deliver processes. Though not digitized, the process that we worked out in TF Hawk are extremely good in synching all of the deep strike players. There should be a natural linkage in TTPs between Apache Bns, MLRS Bns and UAV equipped MI Bns. Believe TRADOC schools .. Rucker, Sill and Huachucha ... should develop these TTPs inside the 'decide-detect-track-deliver' decision cycle and use the 21st Cav as the training base model.

III. Issue: Airborne Command & Control


TF Hawk mission profiles required long range redundant commo links from the attacking Sqdn, the MLRS Bn, the DOCC and the airborne DAART. The radios in the Apache and the current UH60 C2 ASC 15B console aircraft do not have the range for NOE deep raids and attacks. To make the missions work TF Hawk had to rely on a SATCOM equipped UH60 with the Apaches, a UH60 C2 in a ROZ and either a dedicated seat on ABCCC or a modified C12 with an abrne console consisting of 3xARC210 radios in a 20K ROZ. With the Apaches and the supporting aircraft on the ATO, the crews had to monitor both AWACS and ABCCC (UHF) as well as receive the Execution Checklist code words from the DOCC/Strike Net. To make all of this work TF Hawk had two dedicated SATCOM nets, one for the Strike Net and one for the Fire Support Net.


We need to relook, based upon TF Hawk's experience and SFOR, what our airborne C2 requirements are and see if the A2C2S will deliver what we need; additionally we need to relook the suite of radios we are putting in the Apache and the RAH-66 to insure that we have the back up voice linkages to the digital messages we will need for all of the deep strike/raid participants...Apaches/Comanche's-MLRS-UAV Bn-DOCC-ABCCC-AWACS.

IV. Issue: Full Spectrum Night Vision Devices


For years there has been a debate in the Apache community about using ANVIS-6 NVGs in the front seat for the CPG [copilot pilot gunner] to use for enoute to the RP/BP/ABF as an enhancement to the 1st Gen FLIR PNVS [fwd looking infrared primary night vision system]. From my experience, there is great synergy when we employ FLIR with NVGs.

Recent history has shown us that every time we have a real world, high risk mission we have units scrambling to get their CPGs qualified on NVGs for mission success and for safety enhancement. In Albania, with it's rugged terrain, poorly marked power lines and unpredictable weather patterns, relying solely on FLIR was not a good option. We needed to combined the advantages of FLIR and NVGs to insure we could accomplish the mission. This required TF Hawk to establish a full up CPG NVG training program while we were conducting full up collective MREs. Issues like cockpit coordination, CPG tasks RP inbound etc, had to be relearned again. I reviewed several hours of cockpit video of the MREs and I am convinced that were it not for ANVIS 6 NVGs in the CPG position
we would have sustained several wire strikes and possibly one or two midair collisions.


Until we field 2d Gen FLIR, which I believe is a must, we need to establish a full up NVG training policy in the AH-64 ATM, with a well vetted training POI. We need to adjust the MTOEs [modified tables of organizations and equipment] in the Apache Bns to reflect ANVIS NVGs as authorized mission equipment.

V. Issue: AH64 Aux Fuel Tanks


The 230 gallon aux wing tank was designed for ferry flights only and is restricted from combat operations, unless waivered. Out of necessity, 1-101st used the "single" wing tank option, with a waiver, for Desert Storm.

The mission profile then was similar to ones that we had for TF Hawk and for several of the BCTP profiles I have seen these past 6 years. The problems with using the non ballistic tolerant, too heavy wing tank, are well documented.


The Apache requires a center line 150 gallon Aux tank that is compatible to the main fuel system. Robertson Aviation has designed one, the ANG has used it, we used two of them here in the 4th ID during NTC 98-10....they work, they give you back the additional wing store you lose with the wing tank, they are crashworthy, nitrogen inerting and they are easy to install and deinstall at the FARRP. We need to validate the quantities and type design we want and move out.

VI. Issue: Aircraft Survivability Equipment [ASE]


The current suite of ASE is not reliable enough and in some cases not effective. BLUF...the pilots have lost confidence in the APR 39, the ALQ 136 Radar Jammer and are not sure of the ALQ 144 IR Jammer true capabilities. Specifically, on almost every MRE [mission readiness exercize -- rehersal] the APR 39s displayed random "ghost" acquisitions and trackings. The TF worked directly with ARAT and tried several different programs for the Warning system but none corrected the problem .. resulting in the pilots ignoring the system all together. The ALQ-144 has been modified with a new A9 card and for the threat array in TF Hawk AOR the pilots were told to set the jamming program to #2. The ALQ 136 Radar Jammer is designed to defeat the SA8 Land Roll and the ZSU-23-4 Gun Dish radars...the primary threat radars in the Balkans are the Flat Face, Fire can, Straight Flush, Flap Wheel and Giraffe radars. The pilot's were given no supporting data as to the effectiveness of the Jammers to threat missiles and radars in the AOR. In fact the best information the pilots received on threat missiles and radars was written by one of the USAF ALO staff officers, not our EWOs. The world has changed since 1991, most of our adversaries see Apaches, SOAR helos and the Comanche as viable threats across their borders and have developed TTPs and systems to defeat our helicopters.


First, we need to get PM [program manager] AEC to send their SMEs [subject matter experts] into the AOR [area of responsibility] and gather information from the pilots and to put out information to the pilots on each one of the ASE and threat systems.

Second, we need to relook the EWO and ASET4 POIs to insure we are keeping up with the current and future threat and the LLs we have gotten from our SFOR [Bosnia] and TF Hawk experience. Lastly, we need to relook and then commit to the SIIRCM and SIRFC programs with the components of Common Missile Warning System(CMWS) and ATIRCM , not just for the SOAR MH-60K and MH-47E's, but for the Army's Apaches, UH-60 & CH-47 fleets as well. The Suite of Integrated IR Counter Measure (SIIRCM) would replace the ALQ144 and the M130 Chaff/Flare Dispensers; the Suite of Integrated Radio frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC) would replace the APR39 Pulse RWR and ALQ136 Pulse Jammer.

VII. Issue: Mission Rehearsal/Rock Drill Equipment [rock drill is exercise like sand table]


Currently we have very rudimentary methods of laying out terrain boards for rehearsals/rock drills. In Desert Storm, at NTC/JRTC and for TF Hawk we set up crude sand tables replicating 1-100,000 maps of the AO with differing "objects" replicating key terrain features, graphic control measures etc, all of which invariably are less than optimal, not to scale and are less accurate than the Air Mission Planning System(AMPS), MCS, ASAS and TOPSCENE systems we use for planning and executing the mission..


We need a "connected" Battlefield Planning and Visualization rehearsal tool that is large enough for Troop, Bn and Bde rock drills, that interfaces with our ABCS and planning systems. I would envision a large screen or a large horizontal table that has a digital map generator, MCS common graphics and icons that could display in real time or 'variable time' the mission with all of the BOS' elements being played interactively so that all players could synch their actions off of the  Mission Execution Checklist.

VIII. Issue: UAV-AH-64 downlink


TF Hawk, and I believe future TF's will also, relied heavily on the targeting capability of the Hunter UAV. We flew Hunter at F-8 hours and F-2 hours to verify the target sets in the Sqdn's EA.

It is clear that there can be greater synergy of sensor to shooter operations if the UAV
Video image can be instantaneously sent to the enroute Apaches and or the MLRS bn firing SEAD or targets of opportunity. Presently, AATD is working on a Apache Hunter project that imports the Hunter UAV video via Photo-Telesis into the ORT of the Apache, additionally there is a parallel program ongoing at Boeing to link the UAV to the AH-64D LBA.


These two programs show great promise and should be looked at in light of our SFOR and TF Hawk experience.

IX. Issue: Aviation Force Structure


For the past 6 years we have deployed several aviation Task forces to hot spots for more than 30 days. Many of these task forces were ad hoc organizations, ie, partial AH and GS Bn's.

These deployments clearly have highlighted that our AVIM [aviation intermediate maintenance] and AVUM [aviation unit maintenance] structures are not robust enough to conduct simultaneous sustainment operations in two places, even if the units were at 100% fill of MTOE. Additionally, split based aviation TF operations put a strain on the small Aviation Bn and Bde Battle Staffs and the Standardization Staff (IPs).

TF Hawk deployed 2 Atk Sqdns of pilots, both AVUMs, 24 of their 48 AH64s and a partial AVIM to Alabania. The remaining aircraft and AVIM(-) were left in Germany, where the AVIM(-) took control of the 24 AH64s and readied them for possible deployment. Early on TF Hawk determined that neither the 11th AHR, the 2 Sqdns and the CORPS DOCC had enough aviation staff officers to simultaneously plan, rehearse and execute the current mission and the upcoming missions. In many cases the Sqdns employed new LTs to fill the gaps and TF Hawk requested and received 6 Avn O4's from other CONUS units to beef up the staffs.


TF Hawk is not an anomaly, we have been "robbing peter to pay paul" for quite some time in aviation since we implemented the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI). I think it is time that we do a bottoms up review of our Aviation Force structure based upon our experiences in SFOR, TF Hawk, IA and other OCONUS deployments.

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