Heliborne Assault Gone Bad

by Maj A.J. Graham


The 28th MEU is ashore in the country of Wasteland conducting counter-terrorist operations against a global network of religious extremists. Today, the BLT and ACE are conducting a heliborne assault into the village of Bad in order to establish a blocking position to deter an enemy attack from both Bad and through Canyon, a nearby valley. An enemy squad occupies the government center adjacent to local soccer fields, which are the primary landing zones.

You are the escort flight lead, leading a mixed section of H-1s on an assault on Bad. You are flying the lead Huey, and your wing is a Cobra. The friendly scheme of maneuver is a three-wave assault of 3 x MV-22s to land a platoon of infantry Marines, secure the government center, establish defensive positions around the village, and posture for follow-on operations. In addition, the infantry platoon has sections of mortars and heavy machine guns attached to the final wave which will be established in the courtyard of the government center once it is secured.

An RQ-7 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) provides route and landing zone reconnaissance during the assault support holding and approach, calling the zone winter. You approve the assaults out of the initial point and take up the overhead support position.

The first wave of three Ospreys takes a volley of RPGs fired during the approach and waves off during the first wave. Mercifully, none of the MV-22s were hit by the RPGs. You lead an attack to suppress the RPG’s point of origin, allowing the first and second waves to land unmolested.

After the attack, you have the following ordnance remaining:

The original plan was to land the first two waves with five minutes of separation. Due to the attack on the first wave and the close air support (CAS) during the second wave, you now have five minutes remaining until your fuel minimums for landing, and it takes 30 minutes to fly back to the base for refueling. The third wave has not launched and will wait for you to escort them; they will not arrive for at least 90 minutes.

Your wingman calls that he has low engine oil pressure, an emergency that requires reducing power on one of the two engines in flight. However, if oil pressure continues to drop, he will have to shut down the engine, which becomes a “land as soon as possible” emergency. Your wingman says he is comfortable flying for another 5 minutes time on station, but he is limited in speed, maneuverability, and standoff since he now has only half the engine power.

The RQ-7 reports a convoy of seven to nine technical vehicles, armed with heavy machine guns, travelling at high speed toward the village. The enemy convoy will arrive in approximately ten minutes. Immediately after this radio call, the FAC “Rocksalt” reports troops in contact again and asks if you are ready for CAS game plan and nine-line attack brief. Taking stock of the situation, you realize the following:

1) You have five minutes time on station before you must fly back to your only source of fuel. In six minutes time, you will be unable to make it back to the FARP.

2) Only half the assault force is at the objective, and they do not have their heavy weapons attachments. The assault force is in a firefight, and their situation is bad enough that it requires air support.

3) Your wingman is in the middle of an in-flight emergency but can provide five minutes of flight time. He can fire the Hellfire missile in his reduced capacity provided you or the RQ-7 can provide laser designation for the missile.

4) Enemy reinforcements are on the way and will arrive five minutes after your time on station ends.


1) Accept the airstrike, assuming you can complete it in five minutes?

2) Deny the airstrike, and get your wingman home safely?

3) Do something else entirely?

Include an overlay sketch and provide a brief discussion of your rationale. Submit your solutions by email at gazette@mca-marines.org or to the Marine Corps Gazette, TDG 05-17, Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134. The Gazette will publish solutions in an upcoming issue.