The U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters conducted deck-landing qualifications (DLQ) aboard the U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) from March 23-27 in the 5th Fleet area of operations.
The deck-landing qualifications were conducted by the Army’s 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron.
According to a statement from the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the Apache pilots and the crew aboard the USS Lewis B. Puller demonstrated not only interoperability between the two services by completing the qualifications but also showcased an additional capability utilizing U.S. Army aviation assets and U.S. Navy expeditionary sea base ships.
“While Apaches have landed aboard naval vessels before, I think this iteration of us coming out here and performing maritime operations with this ESB is more about projecting combat power forward,” said CW3 Reginald Oliver, an AH-64E Maintenance Test Pilot with 1-17 Cavalry Regiment.
“(We were able to) expand interoperability between the Army and the Navy within this area of responsibility and providing a greater capability if necessary,” said Oliver. “Especially if we are going to deploy an immediate reaction force or a multifunctional aviation task force.”
The USS Lewis B. Puller provides a unique capability to Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (TF 51/5th MEB) and other forces they support in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.
In addition to conducting aviation operations, the USS Lewis B. Puller executes an array of capabilities including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support, support to special operations forces (SOF), and support to embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) and Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company, Central Command (FASTCENT).
The Apache AH-64E is a twin-engine, four-bladed, multi-mission attack helicopter designed as a highly stable aerial weapons-delivery platform. It is capable of destroying an array of mobile armored targets on land and sea using a 30mm automatic gun, aerial rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Similar integration operations with Special Operations assets were conducted in the Arabian Gulf between U.S. naval forces and MH-6M Little Bird helicopters during Operation Earnest Will from 1987 to 1988.
More recently, USNAVCENT surface forces also conducted joint naval and air integration operations with AC-130W Stinger II gunships, assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command Central (USSOCCENT).