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US trials maritime strike role for Apache helo in Persian Gulf

The US military has trialled the use of the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter in the maritime anti-surface warfare (ASuW) role in the Middle East.

        A US Army Apache attack helicopter operating from the Expeditionary Landing Base ship USS
        Lewis B. Puller
        (ESB 3) on 27 March.

The US Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) announced on 2 April that it has conducted joint naval and air integration operations with US Army AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters assigned to US Army Central Command’s (USARCENT) Task Force Saber.

As noted by USNAVCENT, on 27 March Expeditionary Landing Base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) served as a landing base platform for the Apaches, while Cyclone class Patrol Coastal (PC) ships select simulated targets for them to engage. The guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) also participated in the joint operations.

News of the maritime-integration trials of the US Army’s Apache helicopters came two weeks after the US Air Force (USAF) trialled the use of the Lockheed Martin AC-130W Stinger II gunship in the ASuW role in the Middle East.

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 15 March that US Navy (USN) Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships and Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft (MMA) assigned to NAVCENT had conducted “a first-of-its-kind” joint exercise with AC-130W gunships assigned to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) on 8 and 9 March. According to the DoD, the exercises were designed to enhance the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats and involved P-8 aircraft performing long-range reconnaissance ahead of PCs selecting simulated surface targets for the AC-130W to engage.

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