Inclosure 4: (Aviation Support) (281st AHC) to After Action Report.
a. Aviation support was provided by the 281st Assault Helicopter Company (-) to
Detachment B-52 (PROJECT DELTA), 5th SFGA during the period 12 April 1967
through 15 June 1967. The operation was supported by twenty four officers, forty six
enlisted men, six UH-1D and four HH-1C helicopters. The operation was supported in
the following manner.
(1) Total Flying hours:
UH-1D (Slicks) 1047:40 hours
UH-1C (Guns) 608:45 hours
Total 1656:25 hours
(2) Total night flying time (included in total) 221:35 hours
(3) Total tasks flown 1315
(4) Total sorties flown 2844
(5) Number of passengers flown 2657
(6) Weight of cargo flown 45,640 pounds
(7) Number of aircraft hits (enemy fire) 19
(8) Aircraft lost by enemy fire 4 (3 UH-1D - 1 UH-1C)
(9) Aircraft turned in due to enemy fire 2
(11) Total RECON patrols supported 20
(12) Total Roadrunner patrols supported 17
(13) Medical evacuations 32
(14) Ranger operations 9
(15) Task Force operations 1
(16) Ammunition expended:
7.62mm 471,618 rounds
2.75in rockets 2,062 rockets
40mm grenades 9,004 rounds
(17) During this time, two CH-46 from 1st MAW were in direct support of the
b. Four aircraft were lost as the result of enemy ground fire. The following is a resume of
(1) 27 April 1967. An early extraction was programmed for a RECON patrol due to
enemy contact. The first recovery aircraft extracted two of the five patrol members
by hoist. The second recovery aircraft was over the pick-up zone but received heavy
fire and was shot down. No injuries to the crew. The crew and RECON patrol
members established a perimeter, ambushed approximately twelve VC. A Ranger
company was committed and joined up with the downed personnel. During the
assault of the Ranger company, a Marine CH-46 crashed, but had no injuries.
(2) 14 May 1967. During an infiltration, an UH-1D was hit by enemy fire which caused
the aircraft to execute and emergency landing. During the recovery operation, the
second recovery aircraft received fire in the pick up zone and crashed. The crew
chief was injured in the crash. The recovery operation was completed under flares.
(3) 21 May 1967. During the attempted extraction of a Roadrunner patrol, an armed
helicopter was shot down. The aircraft was destroyed by fire and an explosion.
Signal panels were observed near the aircraft. The gunner was extracted that day.
The aircraft commander and crew chief were spotted and an extraction was
attempted, however, the aircraft received automatic weapons fire and aborted. The
gunner of the recovery aircraft was killed by enemy ground fire. On 22 May, a
Ranger company was committed and located the crew chief. A search of the crash
site and area revealed no human remains. On 23 May, the Ranger company located
the aircraft commander. The pilot is listed as MIA. During the combat assault on 22
May, a Marine CH-46 helicopter was shot down. No injuries to crew or troops.
2. PROBLEM AREAS:
a. Emphasis of time factors during extractions. During the previous operations and especially
during this operation, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the selection of extraction
landing zones. A review of the length of time normally required to complete an extraction
is listed below:
(1) Touchdown landing in the LZ 6 to 8 seconds
(2) Ladder extractions 3 to 6 minutes
(3) Hoist extractions 8 to 15 minutes
(4) McGuire Rig extractions 10 to 20 minutes
(This method was not used during this operation)
b. Search and rescue operations (SAR). In future Operations, prior to the first infiltration,
the coordination should be completed for any SAR operation. This would include
establishing alert channels with the "Jolly Green Giant" and the elements of the supported
unit that could provide assistance. Also, to be able to utilize the US Air Force "Speaker"
aircraft is a very valid requirement. It was proven during this operation that personnel on
the ground could hear the directions given from the aircraft. If this coordination is
established prior to the operation, a much faster reaction time can be expected.
a. Night extractions: During this operation, a total of four night extractions were performed.
It must be emphasized that each were under emergency conditions. The following factors
were evident after the successful completion of the four night extractions.
(1) In each instance, the recovery flight was able to become familiar with the area during
the remaining daylight that existed. This enabled the armed helicopters to be able to
establish their protective cover orbits and the recovery aircraft to observe the
condition, location and unusual characteristics of the landing zones.
(2) In each instance, the rapid reaction of the recovery elements and the armed helicopters
was instrumental in the successful completion of the operation. In two instances, a large
volume of enemy automatic weapons fire was received which included large caliber
automatic weapons. In each case, the armed helicopters suppressed or silenced the fire.
(3) During the two night extractions which were conducted with the aid of flares, the initial
orientation of the recovery flight was difficult. To suddenly have a tremendous amount of
light causes orientation problems, however after a few minutes of adjustment, there was
no further difficulty. The biggest factor in the short orientation time was the fact that the
recovery aircraft had become familiar with the area prior to darkness.
(4) In each operation, the terrain favored the operation. The areas for extraction were
well defined and easily located. However, obstacles or the steep slopes present in
three of the landing zones prohibited landing and rope ladders had to be used for the
pick up. The time involved on this type of pick up is excessive and at a maximum,
only four to five people could be picked up at a time.
(5) The complete understanding between the aviation and ground personnel with each
others procedures was the key to the success of the night operations. This came as a
result of continuous operations over a long period of time and familiarity with the
capabilities and limitations of each other.
The successful completion of the night extractions may result in a temptation to rely
on the method as a normal procedure for extraction. One of the more obvious
disadvantages of night extraction is that after the reconnaissance element had
departed, the infiltration landing zone and then requires an emergency night
extraction the recovery element will be totally unfamiliar with the landing zone or
the area. Another disadvantage is that during an emergency extraction, no time is
available to evaluate or prepare the LZ. To attempt the extraction with the use of
flares presents similar problems but could conceivably be accomplished.
The largest obstacle in the night extraction technique is the insufficient amount of
training and proficiency on the part of the aviation and patrol elements. With the
usual minimum amount of time for training allotted between operations, this
procedure cannot be covered adequately for the elements concerned. Training
has been given previously for familiarization but on degree of proficiency has
been obtained. It has been firmly established during this operation that the
technique is a valid EMERGENCY procedure.
b. Photo coverage of the area of operation. During the latter stages of the operation, the
increased photo capability eliminated a lot of time usually taken during the aerial
reconnaissance for patrols and ranger operations.
c. "Dummy" extraction. It is proposed by the aviation element to consider executing
"dummy" extractions with the purpose of aiding a patrol to be able to continue its mission
even though it has been compromised. The procedure would be to locate the patrol and
select a landing zone about five hundred meters from their location; approach the area
with a normal extraction flight; conduct an armed helicopter pre-strike and commit a
"dummy" extraction aircraft. This could not be used often but it might aid the patrol to be
able to continue its mission.