Artillery: June 23, 2004

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American AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships were involved in 17 accidents during the march on Baghdad in 2003. A study of these incidents showed that nine were due to pilot error, most frequently caused by brownout. When a helicopter is close to the ground, and theres a lot of dust around, the air pushed down by the rotors causes a cloud of brown dust, or brownout. The problem is particularly common, and severe, in Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was a new experience for many pilots, and many became so disoriented that they ran into the ground, or turned the wrong way and had their rotors hit something. Most of the accidents did not destroy the helicopter, or kill anyone. But in all cases, the gunship was out of action for days, weeks, or even months, as repairs were made. Noting that SOCOM (Special Operations Command) helicopters dont have this problem, because of navigation systems that enable night and bad weather operation, the army is developing a Guided Launch and Recovery System (GLARS) system for all of its helicopters. Costing about $200,000 per helicopter, GLARS will give pilots a better idea of exactly where they are when close to the ground and in a cloud of dust, or snow (whiteout.)

 


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