Growing need of armed helicopters
The efficacy of an attack helicopter or a helicopter gunship is best understood in pugilistic terminology. Where it enjoys the advantage of reach (the range of its onboard weaponry be it the gun or missiles/rockets) it is king but where the enemy has the greater reach the helicopter can become a coffin.
As India learned to its dismay in Kargil where a helicopter and an aircraft were lost to shoulder-fired Stinger surface-to-air missiles after which employment of air power had to be revised keeping in view the reach of the Pakistani missiles-it had to stay out of reach and thus air power became less effective till laser guided bombs were bought.
The experience of the Russians in Afghanistan was even worse. The Afghan fighters used to ambush the helicopters in the valleys and many helicopters were downed. In Vietnam, the Americans made wide use of the helicopter and lost the war. The one abiding image of the Vietnam War is that of a helicopter parked on the roof of the American embassy taking in embassy staff for evacuation out of the war zone.
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