Currently, few people remember the first western anti-tank guided missile, the Nord SS.10, adopted by the French army in 1955. The world's first production ATGM was created on the basis of the German Ruhrstahl X-7 and was controlled by wire. In turn, on the basis of SS.10, the specialists of the French aircraft manufacturer Nord-Aviation in 1956 created an improved SS.11 ATGM. Aviation a variant of this rocket was designated AS.11.
An AS.11 ATGM with a launch weight of 30 kg had a launch range from 500 m to 3000 m and carried a cumulative warhead weighing 6,8 kg. The armor penetration for the end of 50-s was very large - 600 mm of homogeneous armor. In addition to the cumulative warhead, there were variants with fragmentation and "antimaterial" combat units. The flight speed was low - 190 m / s, which was largely determined by the aerodynamic design and control system. Like many other ATGMs of the first generation, the rocket was guided manually by the operator, while the burning tracer installed in the tail section was required to be combined with the target.
The first carrier of AS.11 rockets was the light twin-engine Dassault MD 311 Flamant transport aircraft. These machines were used by the French Air Force in Algeria for reconnaissance and bombardment of rebel positions. The aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 5650 kg developed a speed of up to 385 km / h. Practical range of about 900 km. At least one machine was prepared for the use of AS.11 rockets. The workplace of the guidance operator was in the glazed bow.
Aircraft MD 311 with suspended AS.11 ATGM
When launching missiles, the flight speed decreased to 250 km / h. At the same time, any maneuvers until the end of the missile guidance were excluded. The target was attacked from a gentle dive; the launch range did not exceed 2000. It is reliably known that AS.11 was used during hostilities in Algeria to destroy warehouses and shelters equipped in caves.
Simultaneously with the adoption of the AS.11 ATGM, mass production of the Alouette II helicopter began. He became the world's first production helicopter with a turbo-shaft engine.
Alouette II with AS.11 ATGM
It was a fairly lightweight and compact machine with a maximum take-off weight of 1600 kg, equipped with a single Turbomeca Artouste IIC6 engine with an 530 hp power. The helicopter developed a maximum speed of 185 km / h. Ferrying range - 560 km. Up to four wire-guided missiles could be hung on the Alueta II. The ATGM operator and guidance equipment were located to the left of the pilot.
Although the Algerian partisans did not have armored vehicles, helicopters equipped with ATGM were actively used in combat operations. “Rocket carriers”, as a rule, operated in conjunction with the Sikorsky H-34 and Piasecky H-21 helicopters armed with NAR, 7,5 and 12,7-mm machine guns and 20-mm cannons. The targets for the ATGM were the strongholds of the partisans and the entrances of the caves.
During the fighting in Algeria, the "turntables" began to protect the fuel tanks and the power plant, and the pilots wore body armor and helmets during the sorties. Although the first combat helicopters and their weapons were still very far from perfect, their use in hostilities allowed them to gain experience and outline ways for further development. Taking into account the experience of the fighting in Algeria, a fire support helicopter SA.3164 Alouette III Armee was created. The helicopter cockpit was covered with anti-bullet armor, the armament operator had four anti-tank guided missiles, a mobile machine-gun unit or a 20-mm cannon. The helicopter did not pass the test, as the installation of body armor caused a drop in flight data.
SA.3164 Alouette III Armee
In 1967, a modification was developed by the AS.11 ATGM, known as Harpon with the semi-automatic guidance system SACLOS. When using this system, the operator was enough to keep the target in the crosshairs, and the automation itself would take the missile to the line of sight.
Launch of ATGM AS.11 Harpon with Alouette III
Thanks to this, it was possible to significantly increase the likelihood of an ATGM hit the target, and the effectiveness of the application no longer depended on the skills of the guidance operator. The use of a semi-automatic guidance system breathed a second life into an aging AS.11 rocket, and its production continued until the beginning of the 80s. In total, about 180000 missiles were produced, which were in service in more than 40 countries. The carrier of the AS.11 ATGM was also the French Alouette III helicopter, the early versions of the SA.342 Gazelle and the British Westland Scout.
Scout AH.Mk 1
Even during the Korean War, Americans experienced an armed version of the Bell-47 light helicopter with a 7,62-mm caliber machine gun and two X-NUMX-mm M-88,9 Super Bazooka anti-tank grenade launchers. Also in the United States, after the end of hostilities in Korea, Bell-20 with ATGM SS.47 was tested, but it didn’t go further experiments.
Bell-47 with SS.10 ATGM
The first American experimental carrier of the AS.11 ATGM was apparently Kaman HH-43 Huskie synchropper. This light helicopter was used during the Vietnam War in rescue operations, but did not receive its armed development option.
After the failure of the SSM-A-23 Dart own ATGM program, the Americans bought a batch of SS.1959 missiles in 11 for evaluation and testing. In 1961, the rocket was approved as an anti-tank vehicle for installation on HU-1B (UH-1В Iroquois) helicopters, the helicopter could take up to six missiles. In June 1963, the SS.11 missiles in the US Army were renamed AGM-22.
Iroquois with AGM-22 ATGM
In 1966, the AGM-22 ATGM was tested in combat in Southeast Asia. At first, guided missiles from helicopters were used very limitedly, mainly for "point strikes" near the positions of their own troops. In 1968, attacks by units of the North Vietnamese army were supported in some cases. tanks PT-76 and T-34-85, later the Vietnamese communists used the captured M41, Soviet T-54 and their Chinese counterparts "Type 59" in the fighting. In response, the US command organized a hunt for enemy armored vehicles using all available means. The most effective were the carpet bombing carried out by fighter-bombers F-105 and strategic bombers B-52. However, this method of combating armored vehicles was too costly, and the command remembered the Iroquois equipped with AGM-22 ATGMs.
Launch of AGM-22 ATGM with UH-1B at the test site
However, the result was not too impressive. Due to the fact that for confident guidance of a manual-guided anti-tank guided missile to a target, highly skilled and trained operators were required, and the launches themselves often took place under enemy fire, the effectiveness of the use of missiles was low. From 115 used 95 anti-tank missiles "went into the milk." As a result, the military preferred, albeit relatively expensive, but much more accurate and easy-to-use ATGM BGM-71 ТOW (eng. Tube, Opticall, Wire - which can be translated as a rocket launched from a tubular container with optical guidance, controlled by wire) and in 1976, the AGM-22 rocket was officially removed from service.
Unlike the AGM-22 ATGM TOW had a semi-automatic guidance system. After the launch, it was enough for the operator to keep the central mark on the target before the missile hit the enemy tank. Control commands are transmitted through thin wires. Coil with wire located in the rear of the rocket.
The launch range of the BGM-71A, which was put into service in the 1972 year, was 65-3000 m. Compared to the AGM-22, the dimensions and mass of the rocket were significantly smaller. BGM-71A weighing 18,9 kg carried 3,9 kg cumulative warheads with 430 mm armor penetration, in the first half of 70-x this was quite enough to defeat medium Soviet tanks of the first post-war generation with homogeneous armor.
Options ATGM TOW
In the 70-80s, missile development proceeded along the path of increasing armor penetration, introducing a new element base and improving the jet engine. So, on the modification BGM-71C (Improved TOW), armor penetration was increased to 630 mm. A special distinctive feature of the BGM-71C model is the additional nose bar installed in the nose cone. In response to the mass production in the USSR of tanks with multi-layer combined armor and dynamic protection units, the US adopted an BGM-71D TOW-2 ATGM with improved engines, a guidance system and a more powerful warhead. The mass of the rocket increased to 21,5 kg, and the thickness of the penetrated homogeneous armor reached 900 mm. Soon BGM-71E TOW-2А appeared with a tandem warhead. In September, 2006, the US military ordered a new wireless TOW 2B RF with a launch range of 4500 m. The radio command guidance system removes restrictions on the range and flight speed of a rocket imposed by the control wire unwinding mechanism from the coils, and increases the acceleration at the acceleration section and reduces flight time rockets. In total, more than 2100 sets of control equipment were supplied for weapons of combat helicopters.
In the final phase of the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese troops very actively used armored vehicles of Soviet and Chinese production, as well as captured tanks and armored vehicles, in combat operations. In this regard, in 1972, the UH-1B helicopters launched an emergency installation of the XM26 system, which was not officially accepted for service. In addition to the six TOW ATGMs on the external sling and guidance equipment, the system included a special stabilized platform, with the help of which oscillations were parried that could affect the accuracy of missile guidance.
Launch ATGM "Tou" with "Iroquois"
The effectiveness of BGM-71A was much higher than that of the AGM-22. ATGM "Tou" in addition to a more sophisticated guidance system had better maneuverability and flight speed up to 278 m / s, which was significantly higher than the French missiles. Due to a higher flight speed, it was possible not only to reduce the attack time, but in some cases to fire several targets in one combat approach. The main threat to antitank helicopters was for troops of the first echelon, especially on the lines of deployment and attack, as well as for units in the areas of location and on the march.
Although the HM26 helicopter system was not the height of perfection, and the Iroquois can hardly be called the ideal carrier of an anti-tank missile, nevertheless Huey, armed with new anti-tank missiles, achieved good results. The first tank was able to be destroyed by launching the TOW 2 ATGM in May 1972. On that day, an anti-tank helicopter group hit four M41 tanks, a truck and an artillery position captured by Vietcong. As a rule, the use of missiles was carried out from a distance of 2000-2700 meters, outside the effective fire of 12,7-mm anti-aircraft guns DShK. The next combat success was achieved on May 9, while repelling an attack by North Vietnamese forces on a southerner camp in the Ben Hett area. Helicopters armed with an ATGM actually thwarted the attack, destroying three PT-76 amphibious tanks. In total, the 1972 of the helicopter anti-tank air group counted 24 tank and 23 other targets in May. In addition to the T-34-85, T-54, PT-76 and M41 tanks, the air strikes were BTR-40, trucks and artillery, mortar and anti-aircraft guns. According to US data, Tou rockets in Vietnam hit several hundred targets. However, by the beginning of the combat use of the ATGM in Indochina, the US military had no illusions about the outcome of the war. As for the BGM-71 ATGM itself, it turned out to be very successful and a long life was prepared for it.
In the first half of the 60's, the US military announced a competition to create a fire support helicopter. The victory in the competition was won by the project of a combat helicopter from Bell Helicopter, which turned out to be preferable to the complex and expensive Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne. The Lockheed Company, which received a contract for the construction of 375 combat helicopters, was unable to bring it to a state that satisfied the military in a reasonable time frame due to the practical implementation of the requirements set forth in the project.
The “Cheyenne”, which first flew into the 21 September 1967 of the year, was quite complex even by modern standards in a machine that used many previously unused technical solutions. Especially for this helicopter, a General Electric Т64-GE-16 turboshaft engine with 2927 kW power was developed, which rotated the main and tail rotors, plus the pushing propeller in the tail section of the machine. Thanks to clean aerodynamic shape and retractable landing gear, the AH-56 should have reached speeds of more than 400 km / h. Built-in weapons consisted of a moving six-barreled caliber 7,62-mm or 20-mm cannon. The NAR, ATGM and 40-mm automatic anti-personnel grenade launchers could be located on the external suspension. The weapon operator had a very advanced XM-112 armament control turning station. The operator was able to maintain and fire on the target during intensive maneuvering. This was due to the turntable. The operator's chair and all sighting equipment were installed on a turntable, which ensures the use of small-arms weapons in the 240 ° sector. To ensure the possibility of combat use in adverse weather conditions and at night, the avionics included a perfect aiming and navigation equipment. However, the refinement and testing of the promising machine was delayed, and the costs exceeded reasonable size. As a result, after the construction of 10 prototypes in August 1972, the program was closed.
In September 1965, the first flight of a specialized combat helicopter AN-1 Cobra took place. "Cobra" was developed based on the specifics of the fighting in Southeast Asia. For all its many virtues, the Iroquois was too vulnerable to small-arms fire. weapons and especially large-bore machine guns DShK, which form the basis of the air defense of the Vietnamese partisans. In order to carry out fire support of ground units and escort of transport assault helicopters, a well-protected, more maneuverable and high-speed combat helicopter was required. AN-1G - also known as "Hugh Cobra", was created using components and units of the transport and combat UH-1, which significantly accelerated the development and cheapened the cost of production and maintenance.
On tests, the first serial modification of the AH-1G helicopter, equipped with the Textron Lycoming T53-L-703 engine with an 1400 HP power, developed a speed of 292 km / h in horizontal flight. On production machines, speed was limited to 270 km / h. The helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 4536 kg, when refueling 980 l of fuel, had a combat radius of about 200 km.
In addition to the bulletproof booking cab, the developers tried to make the helicopter as narrow as possible. Based on the fact that, in combination with better maneuverability and higher flight speed, this will reduce the likelihood of defeat during shelling from the ground. The speed of AN-1G was higher on 40 km / h than that of the Iroquois. The cobra could dive at an angle of up to 80 °, while on UH-1 the diving angle did not exceed 20 °. In general, the calculation was justified: compared with the "Iroquois" falling into the "Cobra" were noted much less frequently. The total weight of the transmission armor, engine and cockpit was 122 kg. However, in the first version of the Cobra, the cockpit did not have armor, which in some cases led to the defeat of the pilot and the gunner-operator from small arms. However, the AH-1G was greeted very favorably by the flight crew. The helicopter turned out to be very simple to control, its stability in flight at low speeds and in the hover mode was better than that of the UH-1, and the labor costs for maintenance were about the same.
At first, the Cobras were not considered as anti-tank and were used exclusively to defeat manpower and actions to curb the delivery of reserves and cargoes by the Vietcong. Very often, helicopters, at the request of ground forces, participated in repelling attacks on advanced posts and bases, and also accompanied transport helicopters and engaged in search and rescue operations. The armament of the AN-1G was appropriate - on the four external suspension nodes, 7-19 mounted 70-mm NAR charging units, 40-mm automatic rocket launchers, 20-mm guns and 7,62-mm machine guns. Built-in weapons consisted of 7,62-mm six-barreled machine gun or 40-mm grenade launcher on a movable turret.
Start NAR with AN-1G
The first combat use of Cobers against tanks occurred in Laos in 1971. Initially, helicopter crews attempted to use 20-mm guns in suspended containers against tanks. However, the effect of this turned out to be zero, and it was necessary to apply NAR with a cumulative warhead. It soon became clear that it was very difficult to successfully attack unguided rockets, armored vehicles well disguised in the jungle. There were great chances for success when tanks were able to be caught while moving in a convoy, but this did not happen often. Due to their significant dispersion, the NAR was launched from a distance of no more than 1000 m, while the helicopters often fired paired 14,5-mm ZSU based on BTR-40 and 12,7-mm DShK installed on GAZ-63 trucks. Naturally, in such conditions, missiles could not be an effective anti-tank weapon, and attack helicopters suffered significant losses. From 88 AN-1G, who took part in the operation in Laos, 13 was lost from enemy fire. At the same time, military successes also took place: according to American data, the 2 Squadron of the 17 th Air and Cavalry Regiment succeeded in destroying the X-NUMX PT-4 and 76 T-1-34 in Laos.
PT-76 padded during the fighting in Southeast Asia
Taking into account the successful experience of the combat use of the BGM-71A missiles with the UH-1, it was decided to equip the AN-1G combat helicopters with an ATGM. To this end, the XM26 armament control system, telescopic sights and four TOW missile launchers were installed on the two Cobras. From May 1972 to January 1973, the helicopters passed combat tests. According to crew reports, during this period, the 81 guided missile was spent, it was possible to hit 27 tanks, 13 trucks and several firing points. At the same time the helicopters had no losses. This was largely due to the fact that the launch range of the ATGM compared with the NAR was significantly longer and was usually 2000-2200 m, which was outside the effective fire of large-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns. Soon, at the disposal of "Vietcong" appeared MANPADS "Strela-2M", which affected the increase in losses "Iroquois" and "Cobra". Faced with a new threat, the Americans were forced to take measures to reduce the thermal visibility of helicopters. On the Cobra, which flew in Vietnam, a crank pipe was installed, which diverted hot exhaust gases to the plane of rotation of the rotor, where a powerful turbulent flow mixed them with air. In most cases, for the capture of helicopters modified in this way, the sensitivity of the uncooled SG GOS "Strely-2M" was not enough. By the time the Vietnam War ended, 1133 AN-1G was built, with combat losses amounting to about 300 machines.
A further development option for AN-1G was AN-1Q with improved cockpit armor and a new M65 sighting system. Thanks to the installation of an optical sight with a three-fold increase on the gyro-stabilized platform, conditions for searching and tracking the target were improved. Using a helmet-mounted sight, the pilot could fire turret armament in any direction. The number of anti-tank missiles on the outer suspension was brought to 8 units. Several copies converted from AN-1G were sent to combat trials in Vietnam, but due to the evacuation of the American troops, the vehicles managed to make only a few sorties without achieving specific results. Nevertheless, the tests were recognized as successful and in this version the helicopter model AN-92G was altered by the 1 helicopter. Simultaneously with a slight increase in the use of guided weapons, due to an increase in take-off weight, a drop in flight data occurred. In order to compensate for the increased take-off weight in the summer of the 1974, a new Textron Lycoming T1-L-53 engine with an 703 hp power was installed on the AH-1800S helicopter. and a new transmission. The external difference of the AH-1S modification from its predecessor was an enlarged fairing of the main gearbox. The variant AH-1S converted all helicopters AN-1Q.
When upgrading helicopters to AH-1Р (AH-1S Prod), the main attention was paid to increasing the effectiveness of combat use and survival on the battlefield by piloting in the following terrain mode. To reduce glare in the cockpit, we installed new flat bullet-proof glasses, changed the configuration of the dashboards, improving the forward-down view. The structure of the updated avionics introduced modern communications and navigation equipment. On a significant part of the modernized machines, new composite blades and a three-barreled 20-mm M197 cannon were introduced. The introduction of guns in weapons significantly increased the ability to combat lightly armored targets. The shelling angles are 100 ° - in azimuth, in the vertical plane - 50 ° up and 22 ° down.
20-mm gun M197 helicopter AH-1S
The electric-powered gun M197 weighs 60 kg and can fire at a rate of up to 1500 rds / min. The AH-1S / R / F helicopters included 300 fragmentation and armor-piercing 20-mm projectiles. The M940 armor-piercing projectile with a mass of 105 g has an initial speed of 1050 m / s, and is capable of penetrating 500 mm armor at a distance of 13 m along the normal.
In the latest version of the AH-1S (Modernized), a laser rangefinder target designator was placed near the telescopic sight in the nose, which allowed to accurately calculate the launch range of the ATGM and improve the accuracy of firing from the cannon and NAR.
With the 1981, deliveries of the AH-1F modification began. In total, the US Army ordered 143 new helicopters, and 387 were further converted from capitally repaired AN-1G. On this model, all the improvements characteristic of the later versions AH-1S were implemented, a system for displaying information on the windshield was also installed, an IR interference generator appeared in the tail section to reduce thermal visibility on the exhaust nozzle deflected upwards, a casing for cooling the exhaust gases outboard air.
The helicopter modification AH-1F with a take-off weight of 4600 kg developed a maximum speed of 277 km / h, the speed of the dive was limited to the value of 315 km / h. In addition to booking the cab and the most vulnerable parts of the engine and transmission, the tail boom is reinforced to withstand the hit of armor-piercing bullets of caliber 12,7-mm.
Although AN-1 in Vietnam showed good results in general, there were significant reserves to increase combat survivability. First of all, it concerned the improvement of the cabin reservation, and the use of a twin-engine power plant. In October, 1970 of the year made the first flight of AN-1J "Sea Cobra", created by order of the United States KMP. Prior to this, the Marine Corps Aviation had operated three dozen AH-1Gs in Vietnam.
Thanks to the use of twin Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3 "Twin Pac" engines with a take-off power of 1340 kW and a new main rotor increased to 14,63 m in diameter, it was possible to improve flight characteristics, increase the safety of operation from aircraft carriers and bring the combat load to 900 kg. The place of the rifle caliber machine gun on the turret was taken by a three-barreled 20-mm cannon. The upgraded twin-engine Cobras took part in the fighting in Vietnam, albeit in smaller numbers than the AH-1G. Subsequently, the USMC received at its disposal 140 AN-1J, at the first stage of operation 69 vehicles were armed with ATGM "Tou". The AN-1J was followed in 1976 by the AN-1T Sea Cobra, an improved model for the Marine Corps with a new weapon control system.
The next twin-engine version was the AN-1W "Super Cobra", which made the first flight of 16 on November 1983 of the year. This machine has two General Electric T700-GE-401 engines with a take-off power of 1212 kW. Serial AH-1W shipments began in March 1986. The Marines initially ordered the 74 helicopter. In addition, 42 AN-1T were upgraded to AN-1W. The armament of the AN-1W helicopters included the AIM-9 Sidewinder UR air combat and the AGM-114В Hellfire anti-tank guns (up to 8 units).
Today, AGM-114 Hellfire guided anti-tank missiles are the most advanced used on American helicopters. The first AGM-114A Hellfire ATGM with a semi-active laser GOS began to be delivered to the troops in 1984. Starting weight rocket 45 kg. Starting range to 8 km. For the Marine Corps helicopters, an AGM-114В modification was made, featuring the use of an improved GPS, a safer cocking system and a jet engine on low-smoke solid fuel. The development and production of the Hellfire ATGM is still ongoing. For more than 30 years since its introduction into service, a number of modifications with improved characteristics have been developed and approximately 100 000 copies have been made. In 1998, the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire model with a millimeter-wave radar homing system, corresponding to the principle of “fired and forgotten”, appeared. This 49 kg missile carries a 9 kg tandem shaped-charge warhead with 1200 mm armor penetration. "Hellfire" has a supersonic flight speed - 425 m / s. Currently produced around 80 000 missiles of various modifications. As of 2012 year, the cost of AGM-114K Hellfire II was about $ 70 thousand.
Probably the most advanced laser-guided model is the AGM-114K Hellfire II. The homing head of this missile has improved noise immunity and can re-capture in case of loss of tracking. In the UK, a Brimstone guided missile with a three-millimeter-wave radar-based radar and laser seeker was created on the basis of the Hellfire UR. Compared to the carrier of the previous generation Tou, the helicopter equipped with the Hellfire missiles is much less constrained in maneuver during combat use.
AGM-114 Hellfire ATGM next to 70-mm NAR Hydra 70
At the moment, the most modern model of a combat helicopter, available in the US KMP, is the AH-1Z Viper. The first flight of this machine took place on December 8 2000 of the year. Initially, the Marine Corps Command planned to convert the 180 AH-1W to this version. But in 2010, it was decided to order 189 machines, of which 58 should be completely new. The cost of converting AH-1W to AH-1Z costs the military department $ 27mln, and building a new helicopter $ 33 million. For comparison, a single-engine AH-1F was offered to potential customers in 1995 for $ 11,3 million.
Compared with the early modifications of the Cobra, the combat capabilities of the AH-1Z have increased significantly. Two turboshaft engines General Electric T700-GE-401C, each with a power of 1340 kW, ensured an increase in the maximum take-off weight to 8390 kg. The combat radius with a load of 1130 kg is 230 km. The maximum speed of the dive is 411 km / h.
The most visible external feature of the Vipers is the new four-blade main rotor made of composite materials. He replaced the traditional family of machines "Hugh" two-bladed. To keep the Cobra in the air more and more heavy, it took a more tenacious rotor, with more lift. The tail screw was also four-bladed. On-board avionics are fully transferred to the modern element base. Analog devices in the SuperKob cabin were replaced by an integrated control system with two multifunctional liquid crystal displays in each cabin. The helicopter installed an infrared system for viewing the front hemisphere FLIR, similar to the one installed on the AH-64 Apache. Also added was the helmet-mounted Top Owl target designation complex, combined with night-vision goggles, which made it possible to make combat missions in difficult weather conditions and at night.
Due to the increased thrust-to-weight ratio of twin-engine variants, as the new modifications appeared, the maximum flight speed increased, and it was possible to somewhat increase the security. For example, in American reference books it is stated that the combined metal-polymer armor of the cockpit of the latest versions of AN-1 is capable of keeping the 12,7-mm armor-piercing bullet from the 300 m distance. But at the same time, the majority of foreign aviation experts recognize that Cobra "significantly inferior to the Soviet Mi-24.
In the first half of the 70s, Iran acquired 202 AN-1J combat helicopters (AH-1J International). These vehicles had a number of options that were not available on USMC helicopters at the time. For example, the Iranian "Cobras" were equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada Т400-WV-402 forced engines with a capacity of 1675 hp. The three-barreled 20-mm cannon was mounted on a damped movable turret coupled with a stabilized sight.
The Iranian Cobras have proved to be an exceptionally effective means of fighting Iraqi armored vehicles. According to the Iranians, the Cobers account for more than 300 Iraqi armored vehicles destroyed. However, a few years after the start of the Iran-Iraq war, an acute shortage of guided anti-tank missiles began to be felt. The Iranian authorities tried to illegally purchase an ATGM "Tou" in a number of countries with a Western orientation. According to a number of sources, a batch of 300 missiles was acquired through intermediaries in South Korea, and the missiles were also obtained as part of the scandalous Iran-Contra deal. Part of the Iranian AN-1J adapted for the use of heavy missiles AGM-65 Maveric. Apparently, Iran has managed to launch its own production of Tou missiles. The Iranian version is known as Toophan. Currently, the production of missiles with a laser guidance system Tophan-5. This rocket, according to Iranian data, has a launch range of 3800 m, weight - 19,1 kg, armor penetration - up to 900 mm.
During the Iran-Iraqi armed confrontation "Cobra" suffered heavy losses. From enemy fire and in flight accidents, more than 100 helicopters were lost. Despite the loss and serious age, AH-1J is still in service with Iran. The cars that remained in the line were overhauled and modernized.
In 1982, the Israeli army used the Cobras (in the Israel Defense Forces they had the name “Tzefa”) in battles with the Syrians. 12 helicopters AH-1S and 30 MD-500, armed with an ATGM "Toy", acted against Syrian tanks. During the fighting, helicopters made more 130 sorties and destroyed 29 tanks, 22 BTR, 30 trucks and a significant number of other targets. According to other data, more than 1982 tanks were destroyed by the Israeli Hugh Cobras in 40 year.
Perhaps the discrepancies are due to the fact that armored vehicles from the Syrian forces and the Palestinian armed forces are taken into account in different sources. However, it would be wrong to say that Israeli combat helicopters unconditionally dominated the battlefield. ATU "Tou" American production is not always operated reliably. The rockets of the first modifications in some cases could not penetrate the frontal armor of the T-72 tanks. And the Cobras themselves were very vulnerable to the Syrian military air defense, which made the crews of anti-tank helicopters to act very carefully. The Israelis recognized the loss of two AH-1S, but how many helicopters were shot down was not really known.
One way or another, but the calculation of unpunished low-altitude attacks using ATGM "Tou" was not justified. With a flight altitude of more than 15-20 meters, the helicopter was most likely detected by a surveillance radar of a self-propelled reconnaissance and guidance system of the Kvadrat SAM at a range of 30 km. The short-range Osa-AKM self-propelled air defense system could detect a helicopter at a distance of 20-25 km, and a ZSU-23-4 Shilka radar detected it at a distance of 15-18 km. All these mobile military air defense systems of Soviet production in the 1982 year were very modern and posed a mortal danger to the anti-tank Cobras. Thus, at a range of 1000 m, the standard 96-round of four barrels of the Shilka hit the Cobra with a probability of 100%, at the range of 3000 m, the probability of hitting was 15%. At the same time getting into a fairly narrow frontal projection of the helicopter is very difficult and 23-mm shells most often destroyed the rotor blades. With a flight speed of 220-250 km / h, a fall from a height of 15-20 m in most cases was fatal for the crew. The situation was aggravated in areas where the Cobras could not hide behind the natural elevations. In the event that the air defense calculations were previously detected by the combat helicopters, the exit to the launch line of the ATGM was fraught with the loss of the helicopter and the death of the crew. So the response time of the crew of the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” after detecting the target before the opening of fire was 6-7 seconds, and the rocket launched at the maximum range, flies more than 20 seconds. That is, before the missile hit the target, a very limited helicopter in maneuver could have been shot at several times.
At the end of 2013, due to budgetary constraints, Israel wrote off the remaining three dozen combat "Cobras", their functions were assigned to two squadrons of AH-64 Apache. After negotiating with the US 16 repaired AH-1S transferred to Jordan, which uses them in the fight against the Islamists.
The same problem as the Israelis was faced by the American Cobra army crews involved in the 1990-1991 winter campaign. In the initial period of the active phase of the conflict, Iraq’s air defense was not completely suppressed, and a significant number of self-propelled self-propelled air defense systems were in the frontal zone. radar guidance and ZSU-23-4. Also in the Iraqi army there were a large number of MANPADS, 12,7-14,5 ZPU and 23-mm ZU-23. Under these conditions, the AH-64 Apache helicopters, armed with anti-tank guided missile systems with laser homing systems, had a significant advantage. After the launch of the rocket, the pilots could get out of the attack by a sharp maneuver, without thinking about aiming the rocket at the target. In a combat situation, the more modest capabilities of the Cobra army avionics and the absence of night-vision equipment, like the TADS / PNVS system installed on the Apache, were negatively manifested. Due to the high dust content of air and smoke from numerous fires, visibility conditions even during the daytime were often unsatisfactory. Night vision goggles in these conditions could not help and were used, as a rule, only for flights along the route. The situation improved after installation on the non-rotating part of the 20-mm gun of the laser pointer, which projected the gun's aiming point on the terrain and reproduced it on night-vision goggles. The range from the target designator was 3-4 km.
The pilots of the Marine Corps who flew the AN-1W had at their disposal the more sophisticated NTSF-65 aiming and viewing equipment, and they had fewer problems when attacking targets in poor visibility conditions. According to American data, combat helicopters destroyed more than 1000 Iraqi armored vehicles in Kuwait and Iraq. Subsequently, the Americans acknowledged that the statistics of Iraqi losses were overestimated 2,5-3 times.
Currently, AH-64 Apache helicopters have supplanted Cobras in ground helicopter units. In the Marine Corps Aviation AH-1Z Viper combat helicopters there is no alternative yet. Sailors felt that the relatively light "Vipers" are more suitable for basing on the decks of the UDC, than the more technically advanced "Apaches".
To be continued ...