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US stages Army, Navy integration drill aboard mobile base ship in Middle East

USS Lewis B. Puller in Middle East
AH-64 Apache helicopters operate with ESB ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) during a joint naval and air integration operation on March 27. Photo: US Army

US Navy expeditionary landing base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) served as a platform for an integration drill between the navy and army throughout the last month.

Joint naval and air integration operations were conducted with US Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters assigned to US Army Central Command’s (USARCENT) Task Force Saber, throughout the month of March.

The operations, which are designed to enhance the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats, have involved Puller performing 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.

“The integration of US Army air weapons teams with other joint fires into the maritime environment greatly enhances our ability to expand reconnaissance and attack capability,” said Capt. Peter Mirisola, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50/Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 55. “The Apaches, in coordination with our surface ships, allow us to hold an adversary at high risk at extended ranges. Combined with other joint fires, these aircraft significantly increase the precision lethality of our joint maritime forces.”

The Apache AH-64E is a twin-engine, four bladed, multi-mission attack helicopter designed as a highly stable aerial weapons-delivery platform. It is capable of destroying an array of mobile armored targets on land and sea using a 30mm automatic gun, aerial rockets and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Similar integration operations with Special Operations assets were conducted in the Arabian Gulf between US naval forces and MH-6M Little Bird helicopters during Operation Earnest Will from 1987 to 1988.

More recently, USNAVCENT surface forces also conducted joint naval and air integration operations with AC-130W Stinger II gunships, assigned to US Special Operations Command Central (USSOCCENT), March 8 and 9.