MEU(SOC) Cobras fire rare surplus of TOWs

5 Jan 2001 | Sgt. M.C. Miller

The Combined Anti-Armor Team didn't steal all the fun - firing a horde of TOW missiles during 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit?s exercise in Kuwait, Dec. 1-10.

The 8-pilot AH-1W Super Cobra detachment of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (rein) fired 50 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missiles, as many as a Marine Aircraft Group is issued yearly.

"Each pilot usually gets to shoot one every three years," said Capt. Thomas Dolan, a 31-year-old Cobra pilot from Mt. Sinai, N.Y. "The 50 that we were given was the same amount a Marine Aircraft Group is issued each year, and our youngest pilots got to shoot eight to nine each in four days."

The 13th MEU(SOC) received 237 missiles from an Army unit stationed in Kuwait that was going to dispose of the surplus of tank-killing missiles. Fifty were given to the Aviation Combat Element and the rest were fired by BLT 3/1's TOW section. The TOW missiles were nearing the end of their shelf life, but the MEU(SOC) was still able to put them to good use.

"Out here we practiced dive shots from 2,000 feet, volley fire using two separate helicopters, and firing past the max range of the TOW while in flight," Capt. Dolan said.

"In the past we only got to shoot one at a time, and we fired under ideal conditions to make sure we hit the target."

The surplus of TOW missiles also benefited the ordnance crews. Most never get the chance to load more than one live missile on a Cobra at once. This time ordnance teams loaded four at a time and got the experience of performing the proper safety checks and tests of a fully loaded Cobra.

The training also gave the detachment's pilots a unique perspective they will share with the rest of their Cobra brethren.

"This is a rare training opportunity that, as far as I know, has never been done before," said Capt. Dolan. "We are compiling a report for the rest of the attack helicopter community with the benefits and drawbacks of these tactics that were never practiced this in-depth before."

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit