Aerial Rocket Artillery


Aerial Rocket Artillery

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=2nd Bn, 20th Artillery


caption=
dates=1965-1972
country=United States
allegiance=
branch=Army
type=Aerial Artillery
role=General Support Artillery
size=
command_structure=1st Cavalry Division
current_commander=
garrison=
ceremonial_chief=
colonel_of_the_regiment=
nickname=Blue Max
patron=
motto=Duty not Reward
colors=
identification_symbol=
march=
mascot=
battles=Ia Drang Valley
notable_commanders=
anniversaries=
decorations=
battle_honours=
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=4th Bn, 77th Artillery


caption=
dates=1969-1972
country=United States
allegiance=
branch=Army
type=Aerial Artillery
role=General Support Artillery
size=
command_structure=101st Airborne Division
current_commander=
garrison=
ceremonial_chief=
colonel_of_the_regiment=
nickname=
patron=
motto=
colors=
identification_symbol=
march=
mascot=
battles=Hamburger Hill, FSB Ripcord, Lam Son 719
notable_commanders=
anniversaries=
decorations=
battle_honours=
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Battery F, 79th Artillery


caption=
dates=1972
country=United States
allegiance=
branch=Army
type=Aerial Artillery
role=General Support Artillery
size=
command_structure=1st Cavalry Division
current_commander=
garrison=
ceremonial_chief=
colonel_of_the_regiment=
nickname=
patron=
motto=
colors=
identification_symbol=
march=
mascot=
battles=An Loc
notable_commanders=
anniversaries=
decorations=
battle_honours=
Although sometimes used as a generic term for any armed helicopters, the term Aerial Rocket Artillery (abbreviated ARA, and sometimes just called Aerial Artillery) refers specifically to the armed helicopter units which were organic to the division artillery of the United States Army’s two airmobile divisions during the Vietnam War. The 2nd Battalion, 20th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Battalion, 77th Artillery, 101st Airborne Division, along with Battery F, 79th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division, were the only true ARA units that ever existed. [http://www.bluemax-ara-assoc.com/]

Beginnings

After the helicopter proved its effectiveness in the Korean War, the United States Army began experimenting with expanding capabilities and uses for them. In 1963, the 11th Air Assault Division was activated to test the concept of air mobility. Because the 8" and 175mm howitzers then organic to Army divisions as general support artillery were not transportable by helicopters, ARA was developed as a substitute. When the 11th Air Assault was deactivated in 1965, then reactivated as the 1st Cavalry Division and sent to Vietnam, the 2/20th artillery, “Blue Max” became the first ARA unit to go into combat. The 4/77th artillery joined the 101st Airborne Division in 1969 becoming the second active ARA battalion. Battery F, 79th artillery, was formed from elements of the 2/20th as units were being withdrawn from combat.

Organization and equipment

Each ARA battalion consisted of one H&HB (Headquarters & Headquarters Battery) and three firing batteries. Each firing battery was equipped with 12 attack helicopters. Initially the units were supplied with Bell UH-1B and UH-1C model helicopters but these were replaced with the newer AH-1G Cobras as they became available.

The primary weapon of the ARA units was the 2.75" Folding Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR). While the B and C model UH-1s could carry up to 48 of these rockets in two racks of 24 each (XM-3 subsystem), the faster, more powerful Cobras could carry 76. [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/Vietnam/FA54-73/ch3.htm#p51] In addition to the rockets, the UH-1s carried a single M60 machine guns as defensive weapons operated by the aircrafts Crew Chief , while the Cobras were armed with 7.62mm miniguns and 40mm grenade launchers. Some UH-1s were also armed with the AGM-22 wire guided missile and later versions of the Cobra with 20mm cannon.

Missions

The aerial artillery batteries could and did perform any type of fire mission as performed by conventional tube artillery. These missions included support of ground troops, landing zone (LZ) preps, interdiction, and counter-battery fire. In addition to normal artillery missions, the helicopters were also employed as escorts for medevac and re-supply helicopters. They also were teamed with light observation helicopters to perform reconnaissance missions.

Notable achievements

ARA participated in both the first and last major battles in Vietnam for US ground troops. Aerial Artillery (the 2/20th) is mentioned prominently in Hal Moore's after action report for the 1965 Ia Drang Valley operation. [http://www.combatreform.com/LTCMooreAAR.pdf] In 1970 it was the 4/77th that was heavily engaged at FSB Ripcord near the A Shau Valley, in what was to be the last major battle involving US ground forces.

At the battle of An Loc, on April 13th, 1972, an AH-1G from Battery F, 79th Artillery became the first helicopter in history to engage and destroy an enemy tank, thus helping to secure the helicopter’s place on the modern battlefield. [http://tri.army.mil/LC/CS/csa/cptoc.htm#AnLoc]

References

cite book
last = Dunstan
first = Simon
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Vietnam Choppers: Helicopters in Battle 1950-1975
publisher = Osprey Publishing
date = 2003
location = Oxford
url =
doi =
id =

cite book
last = Harrison
first = Benjamin L.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Hell on a Hilltop: America's Last Major Battle in Vietnam
publisher = iUniverse, Inc.
date = 2004
location = Lincoln, NE
url =
doi =
id =

cite book
last = Hay
first = Lt. Gen. John H., Jr.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Tactical and Materiel Innovations (Vietnam Studies)
publisher = Department of the Army
date = 1989
location = Washington D.C.
url = http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/Vietnam/tactical/
doi =
id =

cite book
last = Ott
first = Maj. Gen. David Ewing
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Field Artillery, 1954-1973 (Vietnam Studies)
publisher = Department of the Army
date = 1975
location = Washington D.C.
url = http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/Vietnam/FA54-73/fm.htm
doi =
id =

cite book
last = Tolson
first = Lt. Gen. John J.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Airmobility 1961-1971 (Vietnam Studies)
publisher = Department of the Army
date = 1989
location = Washington D.C.
url = http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/Vietnam/Airmobility/airmobility-fm.html
doi =
id =

External links

* [http://www.bluemax-ara-assoc.com/ Blue Max Association]
* [http://www.jetter.net/docs/army/anloc.html The Defense of An Loc]
* [http://www.a101avn.org/LS719units.htm Helicopter units involved in Lam Son 719 (© Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association)]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/Vietnam/Airmobility/chart1.gifOrganization of the Airmobile Division]
* [http://www.vhpamuseum.org/ara/77/77thara.html Vietnam Helicopter Insignia and Artifacts]


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