Table of Contents
Every military asset and resource serves the distinct function of supporting the infantry on the ground. This is the simple truth for any certification, whether armored, airborne, or naval-based. The objective [to support the fighting force on the ground] will always remain the same, but the way in which each certification handles this task varies drastically.
Of all the certifications available, there is none quite as versatile as the rotary-wing support group. In the roles of transportation and logistics, rotary is fast and reliable. In the combat role, rotary is accurate and decisive. It is the expectation that all helicopter pilots be just as versatile to fit this role, and train to utilize various helicopter types across multiple different factions.
This guide will cover the expectations and standards for 3rd JCT Helicopter Pilots, as well as the fundamentals of rotary-wing operation. If you have questions, concerns, or any potential feedback, please contact a Rotary-Wing instructor and share your thoughts with them.
Every infantryman has a favorite weapon, every armor crewman has a favorite vehicle and every pilot has a favorite airframe; yet they will all utilize the tools that are available and most appropriate regardless. It is highly encouraged, expected even, that helicopter pilots train and practice with new and unfamiliar craft, whether to become associated with the dimensions of the airframe, or the potential of the weapons arsenal. Simply put, if a pilot is uncomfortable with a particular type of helicopter, they should practice regularly until this is no longer the case.
As a pilot, you should strive to be an expert at your craft, and knowledgeable of your aircraft. Push your limits outside of operations, so that you may know and understand them. Be aware of the threats to your aircraft, that you may avoid them. Fly safe, fly confident and do not be afraid to say “no”. It is an inexperienced pilot that cannot recognize when a landing is too tight, or a zone is too hot… but it is a foolish pilot that recognizes this and takes an unnecessary risk anyway.
Your area of operation may contain different Anti-Air threats, each of which must be mitigated in order to continue operations. It is important that you attempt to acquire information about what types of hazards will be in your AO from either the mission maker or squad leader prior to the start or step-off of an operation.
- Missile Systems, including SAM Sites and Man Portable Air Defense Systems (“MANPADS”), can lock onto your aircraft and deal critical damage upon impact, ending your flight abruptly. Combined with evasive maneuvers, countermeasures can help you escape a missile’s lock, but it’s safer to identify the area in which enemies have these systems and establish a No Fly Zone (NFZ).
- Anti-Air Cannons, including the armored ZSU-23-4 (“Shilka”) and the static ZSU-23-2 (“Zeus”), will deliver massive damage to any airframe. Helicopters are especially vulnerable to these systems when approaching landing sites or hovering.
- Small Arms Fire, Medium Machine Guns (MMG) and Heavy Machine Guns (HMG), may not pose as great a threat as true Anti-Air systems, but should still be treated with caution. On slow approaches a helicopter can be highly vulnerable to damage from a well placed HMG, and any enemy on the ground can potentially shoot an exposed pilot from their own cockpit. Keep these risks in mind and avoid giving the enemy such an attack of opportunity.
- Establishing No Fly Zones (NFZ) is a crucial part of risk mitigation. If you are aware of an enemy presence in a particular area, or the locations of Anti-Air sites, make sure you establish NFZs as needed, mark them on your map and inform mission command/leadership so that they will be able to plan around these threats.
- Flight Pathing can be utilized very differently depending on the terrain. In flat areas there is little to adjust for, but in mountainous regions it is possible to place large terrain features between your aircraft and a potential threat. Consider the terrain of your AO and use available time to plan accordingly.
- Landing Zones (LZ) will vary from mission to mission, and each will come with its own risks aside from the enemies already present in the AO. Tight compounds, uneven terrain and tall structures can complicate an otherwise straight forward landing approach. Be on the lookout for these obstructions and slow down your approach, if needed, to ensure a safe landing.
- Collateral Damage from helicopter ordinance and fuel not only ensures certain death for any passengers involved in a crash, but can also endanger forces on the ground. A botched extraction, an inaccurate fire mission or any failed maneuver can result in the death and destruction of the flight crew and others on the ground.
Whether a rotary asset is tasked with transporting troops to the field or delivering valuable cargo, there are mechanics and procedures to consider. Having personal experience with logistics, repair and supply scripts is extremely helpful in this area.
- General Maintenance can be conducted in the field when needed. It’s recommended that every air-crew have an engineer to perform repairs. In the field, engineers can only perform half-repair (yellow status) unless a repair vehicle is nearby, but often enough, this minimal repair is enough to fix otherwise critical problems (like a fuel leak, for instance).
- Resupply Crates can be spawned at base and loaded into the ACE Logistics inventory of a helicopter. Consider loading one or two into your aircraft from the start, even if you’re just performing standard transport duties. You never know when ground teams might need resupply.
- Special Requests for supplies or ammo are common, so be ready to adapt to logistical needs. It is important that you are aware what weapon systems and ammo types are being used by ground teams.
- Airdrops can be performed with any crate loaded into the ACE Logistics inventory of a helicopter. This is useful for sustaining troops on the ground when it is too hot to land. Any member of the aircrew can access the cargo inventory of the aircraft and perform the drop, so while the pilot can perform an airdrop solo, it is easier with a co-pilot or crew chief assisting with the process.
- Sling Loading can be a viable option for moving supplies around the operational area, but can easily be overlooked when considering your options. If ground forces need replacement vehicles or large supply drops, consider utilizing sling loading to remedy the situation. Important: due to technical limitations it is important that pilots travel at reduced speed while sling loading and have a crew chief with them to assist in the hook and release processes.
- Custom Pylons can be set on certain aircraft to improve functionality for a particular role. This can be the addition of fuel tanks, rocket pods or cannons. The available pylons vary per helicopter and some may not always be available depending on the aircraft available or the mission restrictions. The pylon configuration menu can be accessed via ACE Interact, however, the user attempting to do so must have an Ammo Logistics vehicle near the helicopter and they must be in possession of a standard Arma 3 Toolkit.
Rotary assets have the power to solve or create problems during operations. In order to maintain a high standard of reliability, there are important procedures to follow, and others that should be avoided.
- Radio Readback is crucial when receiving instructions or fire-missions from JTAC Operators. When a request is given to you over the radio, be sure to confirm your compliance by reading back the important details such as: Grid, Target Type/ID, Ordinance, Markers Used, etc.
- Important Developments or issues that arise may force you to alter an initial plan such as an insertion or fire mission. Be sure to inform command elements of these changes as soon as possible so that they may plan around or even assist you in dealing with the problem.
- Fly-Bys may be performed for the purpose of boosting morale but only if proper risk mitigation has been considered first and permission has been granted by mission command.
- Takeoff Permission should be confirmed between the pilot and any leadership involved in a taxi flight. This will usually be the squad or team leader of any troops being inserted or extracted. Make sure you get confirmation that the team is loaded and ready to takeoff (“dust”), and be sure to alert passengers that you are about to takeoff before actually performing the action.
- ETA should be provided to leadership members or any concerned parties whenever possible. This means letting leadership know how long it will be until you arrive at a designated LZ, or informing JTAC of the time it will take you to move to and engage a target.
- Coordinate with other friendly aircraft in your AO to mitigate the risk of mid-air collisions. This may involve establishing rough flight altitudes for either aircraft to abide by.
Rotary Transportation Qualification
This is the first level of rotary qualification, those that complete the test will be allowed to pilot unarmed (door guns are acceptable) helicopters in official operations, performing insertions, extractions and logistics. Pilots may also be a part of a helicopter air-crew as Crew Chief, Door Gunner or Co-Pilot. Note that this does not include the role of Gunner for gunships.
- Prerequisite: The trainee must have completed RTO/JTAC training.
- Prior to Starting: The instructor will choose a random unarmed helicopter for the test, if the trainee is unfamiliar with the chosen frame they are allowed a period (30 minutes maximum) to test fly and get a feel for the aircraft.
- Test 1: Successfully land inside of a compound.
- Test 2: Successfully land on a rooftop.
- Test 3: Successfully sling load cargo to a drop point.
- Test 4: Successfully airdrop cargo to a combat zone.
In tests 1, 2 and 3 the trainee must avoid damaging the aircraft. For tests 1 and 2 the Instructor must ensure that the landing zones are suitable for the helicopter being used, the rooftop chosen should not have any egregious obstructions and the compound should be no smaller than the width of the rotor blades and the length of the fuselage with an additional five  meters of space on all sides. For test 4 the airdropped cargo must be within one-hundred  meters of the intended target. For test 4 the instructor will spawn a squad size element near the drop zone and a maximum of one  HMG should the instructor desire. For test 4 the trainee must avoid taking critical
Rotary Close Air Support Qualification
Upon completion CAS qualification, rotary wing pilots can utilize armed transport helicopters and gunships during official operations, in the roles of Pilot or Gunner. Qualified Pilots may also operate rotary wing drones such as the MQ-12 Falcon.
- Prior to Starting: The instructor will spawn a random Gunship for the test, if the trainee is unfamiliar with the chosen frame they are allowed a period (30 minutes maximum) to test fly and get a feel for the aircraft.
- Test 1: As Pilot, engage and destroy a motorized squad using rockets.
- Test 2: As Gunner, engage and destroy an armored target and fortified position using both missiles and cannons.
During test 1, the instructor will place between one to three [1-3] Anti-Air sites in the test area roughly one  kilometer away from the target; the site(s) will marked on the map for the trainee to see; he/she must plan accordingly to mitigate the risks of the site(s). During test 1 the trainee may take damage but must retest if shot down or if more than two  helicopter systems go critical [red]. The instructor will fly the helicopter for test 2 and will comply with the requests of the trainee who must communicate needs to the instructor.