Helicopter Air-Battles in the Iran-Iraq war

Discussion in 'World Armed Forces' started by Kampfwagen, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. Kampfwagen

    Kampfwagen Junior Member

    Dec 8, 2005
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    Hey there.

    I'm doing research on the Mi-24 series of Helicopter-Gunships/Transports and I stumbled onto this during a search.

    During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran's AH-1 Cobra's (not sure of the variant) squared off against Mi-24 Hind-D's of Iraq in the only Air-To-Air combat between Helicopters.

    Basically, I am trying to learn more about the Mi-24 and if I can learn something about the AH-1 while I am at it, I'm all for.

    How well did they do, which craft came out the superior? What tactics were used?

    Any general information would be great.

    And please. Let's not turn this into a political discussion. Hopefully this goes without say.
  2. crazyinsane105

    crazyinsane105 Junior Member

    Aug 27, 2005
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    Hmm....interesting topic. To be quite honest with you, I've read very little about helicopters squaring off against each other during the Iran-Iraq war. Then again, both the Iranian and Iraqi armies were operating in clear skies throughout much of the war (although the Iranian air force was able to hit Iraqi airbases and cities quite frequently). I know the Iranians managed to inflict huge armor losses against the Iraqis, though a lot of their AH's did get shot down in the process.

    BLUEJACKET Banned Idiot

    Jun 13, 2006
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    Here is some info:

    IMO Mi-28 & KA-50 series are even better suited for air to air combat than Mi-24s/AH-1W Super Cobras!







    #3 BLUEJACKET, Jan 4, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2007
  4. Kampfwagen

    Kampfwagen Junior Member

    Dec 8, 2005
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    I know all about the KA-50 and Mi-28. Very nice helicopters and most certiantlly better in the attack role.

    I figured it would have had more to do with pilot skill and chance rather than the capabilities of either aircraft.

    Thanks a bunch, Blue!
  5. JimGoose

    JimGoose Just Hatched
    Registered Member

    Jan 14, 2007
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    Hello, I stumbled on here via Google, but I'd like to add what I've found about the topic. In 1992 a USMC Major (Major R. M. Brady) wrote a document titled "AH-1W Air Combat Maneuver Training -- Why It Must Be Reinstated" wherein he cites Iran's use of AH-1s against Iraqi Soviet designed gunships.

    Here are the sections relevant to your questions:

    Here is the article URL: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1992/BRM.htm

    i would also like to add that Iran has for a few years been able to completely overhaul its AH-1 fleet up to AH-1S specs, and repair many airframes previously written off as wrecks during the US imposed spare parts strangle hold during the Iran-Iraq war. Iran's "HESA" institute has also begun work on a totally reverse engineered and upgraded variant of the AH-1S along with locally made upgrades (FLIR, cockpit, canopy, etc) known as "Panha 2091" (Bell Texatron is trying to sue for this copyright violation). As of late, IRIAA AH-1s see combat in anti-drug trafficing operations against well armed and funded Warlords in western Afghanistan in the Baluchistan regions. Sorry to spam on about the AH-1 but hey now you know more :)

    you can find lots of valuable info at ACIG.org
    #5 JimGoose, Jan 14, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  6. Mixelplic

    Mixelplic Just Hatched
    Registered Member

    Apr 6, 2009
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    The essence of helicopter dogfighting comes down to two central issues: Altitude and Air Defenses.

    You put yourself above the other guys rotor disk with a turret gun or a decent side gunner and the fight is pretty much over for him.

    But if, in the process, you gain 500ft and start boring 'here I am!' big circles in the sky over a roughly .5-1.5 mile radius and it'll be a miracle if you -don't- get snookered by some grunt with a MANPADS, RPG, HMG or battle rifle.

    Because the trashfire outnumbers the beanie prop Red Baron threat 100:1.

    Because of this, along with the relatively slow overtake and poor sensor systems of all but the latest and greatest generations, your basic counter-air tactic is the scatter and dig or sprint option as numbers and distance or friendly lines are your greatest aid in surviving the first as only pass.

    In terms of weapons, guns work because they are constantly available for most snap-conditioned fights and have pretty good stabilization and sighting. Provided you can get the nose on FFAR do as well but are generally messy, especially in relation to FEBA based encounters where you are most likely to have meeting engagements.

    OTOH, our ATGW are generally pretty poor AAMs. About 1/3rd of the Iranian International J Cobras had TSU but even so the TOW puts such hard min-range (gather) and pitch/bank angle limitations on the engagement envelope that, along with the wirebased SACLOS optical lag, you just don't get enough of a crossing rate capability to use the weapon, air to air. Almost -any- deviation in target height or angle off the nose (rate change) being enough to throw the weapon off.

    The AT-2/6 and later Soviet ATGMs on the Hind are actually a little better here as RFCG doesn't require a spin stabilization mode to deploy the wire and keep the tail beaconflare centered in the detector FOV. They are also generally a little bit faster/longer reaching. The problem being to get them to ride the beam well enough to stay ontarget with the primitive sighting head on the Hind.

    Hellfire is good, just because it has a massive G boundary for trajectory tailoring under cloud in Euroweather. I'm told that AT-16 actually has a dedicated A2A mode.

    MLMS/ATAS were non existent back then and are just shy of worthless even today (no boresight director). AIM-9 doesn't like locking on below horizon and has some flakey aerodynamic issues under certain downwash conditions while the 1980s Iranians only had the J which had good sprint impulse but low overall range plus rather poor blinder angles (only about a 12.5` wide search cone and 2` FOR as I recall) and would have required some different wiring on the Sea Cobra anyway. The Russians didn't do much with AAMs on the hind, none of their weapons pylons were really right for it but I wouldn't be surprised if the Iraqi's didn't at least try, given all the other 'experiments' they did with Mirage and MiG-23 trading French and Russian weaponry.

    The problem for them was again an RQ heater with limited lookdown and low altitude range capabilities in the Magic-I and Atoll/Aphid series. Unless the engagement vectoring is just perfect, you will generally run over a helo before a heat weapon will see it.

    A more general problem for the Iraqi helo operations here is again that of overall Soviet weapons system technology (particularly the platform sensors) which were so Vietnam-era poor that you don't get much of a chance to employ them except at or near terminal ranges in what might be termed a 'precision strafe' attack with mandatory flyover. With the 57mm as an alternative, the ATGW is a slightly better option. But with 80mm and particular vs. multiple battlefield targets, you're better off keeping the nose moving around and letting rockets saturate the area.

    In either case, availability and weight issues on period Soviet EXCM and Suppression systems made the direct attack option very risky in the presence of any guided threat.

    As a result of this, typical Soviet doctrine was to run in stacked or cross track snaking threeships with one helicopter (the leader) up and back looking for fire sources and the lead pair trolling left and right, low, ready to pick up on them. This option dies an ugly death in the presence of radar IADS and/or fast air.

    The Iranian system would presumably be based on the NATO bobup ambush with powered optics and much better radio coordination with the TACP or GFAC and here what tends to happen is that you see the bad guys coming and either let them drive right on by (not your mission) or you pop and shoot them if their ground track will support the shot on crossing angles.

    Of course it works the other way too, in that Western 'sneak attack' ATGW ambush hides tend to be fairly predictable, static, locations and if the enemy is _looking for_ the hostile air on what amounts to a battlefield air superiority sweep, they can run right over the top of your rotor before you see them coming with the speed that the Hind has. Scouts here are more or less useless because they give away the game as much as provide overwatch.

    Another issue is that, at least in Soviet use, small air mobile ops were never really considered as the air mobile mission was all about saturation vertical envelopement over planned mission objectives. In this, they were looking at 70+ helicopters coming in to drop troops on the hilltops, road junctions and even (known) fighting positions of our armored formations so that a forced river crossing or other breakout conditioned engagement was essentially base-of-fire fought from 'both banks of the river'.

    We also had a lot of cross-FLOT activities planned but ours were more oriented towards deep attack and interdiction of the followon forces in a kind of fluid battlefield situation (our tactics were designed around shaping the battlefield for tactical nukes, thus we operated in much smaller unit force structures).

    In terms of Iran's specific tactics, what you have to realize is that the Iraqi attack was TOLD to go-slow by the American taskers handling the U-2 intel for about 5 weeks when they were inches from rolling up the Iranian defenses completely. Because it was always our intention to punish Iran but never to give it to Saddam unconditionally. This allowed the Iranians to stabilize their lines using suicide troops in the hundreds of thousands as well as bring back a bunch of Shah era pilots who had been 'officially under investigation' just before the wall and the blindfold.

    Had they not gotten their act together with such desperation measures, there would have been no helo air combat because they could not have kept up a FARP-on-the-move defensive campaign while continually losing so much ground.

    Once the fronts had stabilized, their biggest issue was spares and for this all helos are notorious consumers.

    Given the Israelis operated the S and the J International is effectively a T minus a few widgets, the Iranians had to simply do without for awhile and this greatly hurt their operational freedoms.

    Still, even a few helos flown by dedicated crews can do a lot if used discretely and given the Iranians were also license producing the AB-214ST, I wouldn't be surprised if they couldn't maintain at least a few mission ready airframes by canbirding the rest. In this air to air would have been restricted to those occasions when the Iraqis came over the FEBA looking for reinforcement and resupply/medevac missions which would have likely been flown in the late evening.

    I would _not_ want to take a hardnosed Cobra into a flatland fight with French Crotalle/Roland or Soviet SA-8/9 and Zoos.

    Comparitively, the Iranians had relatively few HAWK but made an exceptional lucky deal with the RBS-70 purchase and that alone may have changed the course of the frontal war, especially after both sides decided to hold back their tactical air forces as a 'reserve strike' capability for hostaging the oil lading and COG. CAS/BAI is a traditional eater of airframes here and neither side really pioneered what I would call useful night time attack options to remove the MOB threat from the picture.

    Ironically, from what I remember, both sides discovered early on that, contrary to popular belief, the fixed vs. rotary wing threat is basically one of the fox gone amok in the hen house.*

    While this is particularly true today with radar weapons platforms using monopulse and good LDSD (i.e. dedicated fast mover counterair specialists), both Iran and particularly Iraq went out for the slow and dumb end instead with each making large purchases (around 50 per) of PC-7 and later PC-9 aircraft with basic 7 shot 57mm Chinese or 68mm SNEB rockets and Belgian gunpods mounting twin 7.62mm FNMAG or single RMB .50.

    While they are still not quite as maneuverable as helicopters, these turbotrainers easily dominate them in the vertical plain and had EM loadings (sustained G on most helos is only about +2 or 3 and -.5) that let them get in and out of the trashfire envelope quickly. So that they could either rip the belly out on the roundout. Or send rounds down into the cockpit or rotorhub area using a stoop. Both of which are notoriously hard areas to keep under visual scan in razorback attack birds and ironroof utility transports.

    Small fixed wings are also cheap (far more so than the helicopters they attack). Essentially a cross between an overpowered crop duster and a competition aerobatics mount with hardpoints they are able to duck out from under most fixed wing responses and alerted surface AD while using their 300 knot dash speed to also sneak across the FLOT and make a mess of the logistics/medevac relays.

    As 'pure' antihelo platforms they are easy to fly and maintain competency on, have vastly superior energy performance to run away or climb above most tactical mistakes which means you can live long enough to build a core experience base.

    Perhaps most importantly, they come with a large civilian market of compatible spares which is either beyond the reach of 'official' interdiction (Swiss Pilatus, Brazilian Embraer) or too widely distributed through contract depot sellers.

    They are the perfect aircraft for a regional war which has bogged down into desultory engagements along a disputed frontage.

    Helicopters are like Democracy. Generally about the worst possible solution for the given problem 'except that everything else would be worse' so you might as well concentrate the misery in one airframe design. In this, it's fair to note that the Mi-24 has always been a bit weighty for it's diskloading flies rather stiff with a lot of settling. At high power settings (hot and high daytemps) and speeds where the controls lighten up a bit, it has some severe directional and control lag/swapping squirreliness. Indeed pitch rate excursions in simple terrain avoidance flight here often leads to boom slap for little or no (winds off cliff face) apparent reason and this has killed a LOT of pilots in AfG.

    Comparitively, the AH-1 is and and always has been a limited by the 1960s Teetering Rotor solution to lead/lag issues and so must ALWAYS be maneuvered in a careful and coordinated (yaw for roll) manner that does not allow for rapid G transitions inherent to vertical maneuver which dominates helo warfare. Play free with the envelope limits and you will bump the mast, separate the rotor and become a 15,000lb glider.

    With these exceptional performance inhibitors as well as the host of other-mission worries and poor sensorization issues that limit most helo A2A engagements to prelaid ambushes and across-the-nose random fights; the best anti-helicopter helicopter is one which leaves enough money in the budget to buy a separate airframe to do the battlefield air superiority mission as a lead sweep away from the beanieprops altogether.

    Hounds before the hunters, you save the horse from the mountain lion and let the dogs flush the kitty.


    *The notorious instance of the Me-109 pair which couldn't shoot down the Flettner 282 in WWII occured in a _completely sanitized_ environment where the pilot knew he was about to be attacked and was not forced to divide his attention between flight maintenance, tactical and terrain navigation skills. It should also be noted that the Me-109 of the time was overweight and had very poor turning characteristics.

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