Most people view the AH-64 as an unstoppable weapon of war.
It has the reputation of being the most lethal, survivable helicopter flying today. It boasts impressive electronics, weaponry and weapons.
But in 2003 in the attack on Karbala, members of the 11th Aviation Regimen, 3rd Infantry Division in particular had a very bad day.
This from Wikipedia...
EngagementThere were some big changes for Army aviation after this battle. Not only would it lead to a more 'vigorous' use of artillery but it would end the deep strike role for Army aviation.
The 31 Apaches of the U.S. 11th Regiment took off from Rams Base. One crashed immediately after takeoff when its pilot became disoriented. As they turned north toward Karbala, signals intelligence picked up over 50 Iraqi cell phone calls alerting the enemy's forward units of the Apaches.
As the strike neared Karbala, the Iraqis signaled their troops to open fire by turning off and then, a few second later, on the area's lights. Ground troops, having recovered from the suppression air strike, opened up with small arms and other weapons. Lieutenant Jason King, pilot of Apache "Palerider 16", was hit by AK-47 fire in the neck and suffered a severe hemorrage, but he never lost consciousness. He was later evacuated to Germany for surgery, but returned to his unit a few weeks later.
The Apaches were reluctant to return fire; most enemy fire was coming from houses and the risk of collateral damage was high. The helicopters scattered in search of the Medina Division, but were hampered by poor intelligence. Apache "Vampire 12", flown by Warrant Officers David S. Williams and Ronald D. Young Jr., was forced down after gunfire severed the hydraulics. The air commander's radio was also hit, preventing communication with the other helicopters.The Apaches turned for home after a half-hour of combat. Most were without functioning navigation equipment or sights. At least two narrowly avoided a mid-air collision.
AftermathOf the 29 returning Apaches, all but one suffered serious damage. On average each helicopter had 15-20 bullet holes. One helicopter took 29 hits. Sixteen main rotor blades, six tail blades, six engines and five drive shafts were damaged beyond repair. In one squadron only a single helicopter was deemed fit to fly. It took a month for the 11th Regiment was ready to fight again. The casualties sustained by the Apaches induced a change of tactics. Attack helicopters would now be used to reveal the location of enemy troops, allowing them to be destroyed by artillery and air strikes.
Thomas E. White, who was then United States Secretary of the Army, felt disappointed by the outcome of the battle, adding "we were very fortunate we didn't lose more aircraft."
Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate Magazine an article called "Chop the Chopper"...
The U.S. Army's only disastrous operation in Gulf War II (at least the only one we know about) took place on March 24, when 33 Apache helicopters were ordered to move out ahead of the 3rd Infantry Division and to attack an Iraqi Republican Guard regiment in the suburbs of Karbala. Meeting heavy fire from small arms and shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenades, the Apaches flew back to base, 30 of them shot up, several disablingly so. One helicopter was shot down in the encounter, and its two crewmen were taken prisoner.After that incident, Apaches were used more cautiously—on reconnaissance missions or for firing at small groups of armored vehicles. Rarely if ever did they penetrate far beyond the front line of battle, out in front of U.S. ground troops or without the escort of fixed-wing aircraft flying far overhead.Shortly afterward, when a speech by Saddam Hussein was broadcast over Iraqi television, some armchair commentators observed that the speech was probably live, or at least very recent, because he referred to the downing of an Apache. In fact, that proved nothing. If one thing could have been predicted before the war started, it was that an Apache would be shot down.Last year, during the Afghanistan war, seven Apaches were flown in to attack Taliban fighters as part of Operation Anaconda. They all got shot up, again by RPGs and machine-gun fire. None crashed, but five were so damaged they were declared "non-mission-capable"—in other words, unable to go back into combat without extensive repair—after the first day.In the 1999 air war over Kosovo, 24 Apache helicopters were transported to the allied base in Albania. Their arrival was anticipated by many officers and analysts as a turning point in the war. Yet, within days, two choppers crashed during training exercises. Commanders decided not to send any of them into battle; the risk of losing them to Serbian surface-to-air missiles was considered too great.Attack helicopters have always been troublesome. The U.S. Army lost over 5,000 helicopters in the Vietnam War. (Nor is this a uniquely American problem: The Soviets lost hundreds of Hind helicopters to mujahideen firing shoulder-launched Stinger missiles during their Afghan venture.)This sorry chronicle raises the question: Why did the Army build helicopters in the first place?
It all goes back to the end of World War II, when the Air Force became an independent service of the armed forces. (Before and during the war, air forces were a branch of the Army.) In its first few years of independence, the Air Force became involved in tumultuous budget battles with the other services. Finally, in April 1948, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal called a meeting with the service chiefs in Key West, Fla., where they divvied up "roles and missions." The emerging document was called the Key West Agreement. An informal understanding that grew out of the accord was that the Air Force (and, to an extent, the Navy) would have a monopoly on fixed-wing combat planes.Quite honestly I never liked Kaplan. I always considered him a hack and believed that he was too influential when it came to military matters during the Bush Administration. But on this issue he gets it half right. Attack helicopters fill a vital role and should continue but he's right on this point... The Key West Agreement should be scrapped and the US Army should be allowed to field Close Air Support aircraft.
The Battle of Karbala proves that if nothing else does.