Boeing Frontiers
October 2003
Volume 02, Issue 06
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Integrated Defense Systems

First Apache pilots pave way for today’s Apache Longbow

First Apache pilots pave way for today’s Apache Longbow In 1985, Mark Ferrell and Brad Rounding, members of the first fielded AH-64A Apache unit, were making Apache and U.S. Army history. Ferrell, a 26-year-old captain, was the Operations Officer for 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Brigade. Rounding, then 29, was the B-troop commander.

Ferrell and Rounding literally wrote the book on how pilots could use the technology advances the aircraft provided. That heritage of innovation still exists today, 20 years after the first Apache production model rolled off the assembly line. Indeed, the duo is still involved with the aircraft. Ferrell is a colonel, the director of Training and Doctrine Simulation for Army Aviation at Ft. Rucker, Ala. Rounding now markets the Apache Longbow for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Mesa, Ariz. The 3rd Squadron, meanwhile, is in Korea with next-generation Apache Longbow helicopters as part of the 6th Cavalry Brigade.

"It was left to us to develop the tactics and techniques when we fielded that unit. There was no 21st Cavalry Apache Training Brigade back then to train us at Ft. Hood," Ferrell said. The 21st Cavalry has trained all the Apache battalions after the fielding of the first one.

The 263-soldier unit, with 44 aviators, received its 18 A-model Apaches at the start of 1986, and was fielded that summer.

"It was a totally new technology," Rounding said. "We had to develop new ways to use it. Just like today, the soldiers piloting the AH-64D Apache Longbows are finding new ways to deal with that state-of-the-art technology."

The unit developed its very own "How to Fight" book, which was a combination training manual and volume of tactical and standard operating procedures, Ferrell said.

"We would rewrite it daily," he said. "We'd try something, and if it didn't work, we'd change the book again. Other than combat, being a member of the first Apache unit remains the most exciting period of my time in the Army."

The soldiers were amazed at the new technology in their hands. And they had something completely different: full control of the battlefield at night.

"With the transition to Apache, and its incredible night capabilities, we went from leasing the night to owning the night," Ferrell said.

The squadron became so practiced at night operations that it often impressed VIPs with the Apache's stealthy warfighting abilities.

Ferrell remembers one exercise in central Texas in which the Apaches were so stealthy that the VIPs, who were watching within the engagement area, didn't realize the AH-64s had engaged, attacked and destroyed their targets—plywood cutouts of tanks. Only after seeing themselves in the post-mission video playback did the VIPs realize that they were in the Apaches' sights.

"We were confident flying the aircraft. Not only did we have the most survivable and lethal attack helicopter in the world, we were on the leading edge of technology," Rounding said. "We had that battlefield edge then, just like the Army does today with the Apache Longbow."

— Lisa J. Dunbar



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