First: a brief return to last week’s NerdGuy
A fan noted that I missed a chance to compare spacecraft evolution and sent me this combined image:
And a slightly wider view of the Dragon command console. There, um, isn’t anything outside the picture (looking over both astronaut’s shoulders):
Now, on to Gunships!
Observant fans of Miranda Chase will have noticed that while the first four books in the series focus on airplanes, the second quartet focuses on rotorcraft.
- Raider: Experimental – multi-role
- Chinook: Transport
- Havoc: Attack
- White Top (Marine One): Executive Transport
There are surprisingly few pure attack helicopters. Even The Night Stalkers of the US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment don’t actually use a pure attack helicopter. They have an MH-6M Little Bird that can be configured for transport or attack (the AH-6M [attack] is nicknamed the Killer Egg for its egg shape and incredible ability to lay down fire), and the same with the MH-60M Black Hawk. I’m not saying these aren’t incredibly lethal aircraft when configured as gunships, the MH-60M in its DAP (Direct Action Penetrator) configuration may well be the most dangerous rotorcraft in any military today.
But pure attack rotorcraft are actually exceedingly rare:
- US Army: AH-64 Apache Longbow
- US Marine Corps: AH-1 Cobras which are rapidly becoming AH-1Z Vipers with upgrades
- Airbus: EC665 Tiger used by several European countries
- Italy: Agusta A129 Mongoose
- China: CIAC Z-10 (they have 2 others but like the MH-6M, they’re multi-role)
- Russia: Kamov Ka-52 Alligator
- Russia: Mil Mi-24 Hind (a monstrous and very formidable gunship)
- Russia: Mil Mi-28 Havoc (a very nasty machine)
- I might have missed a few minor ones, but otherwise that’s it.
Not for Everybody
Most aircraft are so expensive to design that it is necessary to spread the cost over as many sales as possible. Manufacturers are always seeking and lobbying for access to foreign markets.
Conventional helicopters of every type are easily found in multiple military arsenals…except the gunships. Despite manufacturer’s best efforts, these are rarely exported. The ones that are go only to very, very friendly nations.
For example, Sikorsky Black Hawks are in use by at least twenty-eight countries. The AH-1 has only ever been used in four. Perhaps that fact that the US sold 202 of them to Iran under the Shah in 1971 and they’ve been in use continuously since his 1979 overthrow has something to do with it. And how badly does America wish it could take back the 42 sold to Turkey in the 1990s. Will we soon be regretting the 62 we sold to Taiwan?
Choosing Your Weapon
I named the book before I wrote the story. I really wanted to use the Ka-52 Alligator, it’s such an interesting aircraft. It sports: coaxial counter-rotating rotors and, in the single-pilot Ka-50 Black Shark version, it has one of the only ejection seats in any rotorcraft [the first blast blows off the rotor blades, the second jettisons the canopy, and the third ejects the pilot]). As I said, fascinating.
So Havoc was almost named Alligator but I couldn’t quite justify that as a title. I seriously considered Black Shark as a title but it only has one pilot, not a pilot and a gunner. I knew that I had would have to get my villain and my hero in the helicopter together before the book was over. And while I could have had great fun with the big Hind (which can also carry eight troops in a small emergency evacuation bay–perhaps able to lift Miranda’s entire team to safety in a crisis moment?), I didn’t think that was quite the title I was after either.
In the End…
I was left with a deep, and slightly terrified, understanding of these lethal machines. As to how they flew in the book, you’ll have to read it to find out.
And since the book was focusing on Holly Harper… What title could better describe my favorite chaos demon than: