The North Carolina Army National Guard’s (ANG) 1-130th Attack Battalion (AB) crew has conducted live-fire aerial gunnery training at Fort Bragg.

The training with their AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters was carried out as part of their annual training in North Carolina.

1-130th AB is part of the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade, North Carolina ANG.

Charlie Company pilot and Chief Warrant Officer Two Tom Koestering said: “Aircraft operations in training mode is different than operations using live ammunition.

“It’s important our fuellers, maintainers and pilots re-familiarise themselves with the risks involved, risks you don’t encounter with training missiles and inert ammunition.”

The AH-64D is armed with Air Ground Missile (AGM)-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile, which has a millimetre wave seeker that allows the missile to perform in full fire and forget mode.

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It is also equipped with 2.75in rockets and a 30mm Area Weapons System.

The training event validated 22 crew members prior to qualifying them on the complex night gunnery flights.

Aviators conducted risk assessments and coordinated with range control to deconflict airspace prior to validation and qualification.

Detailed weather reports were provided to the aviators from the Air Force Staff Weather Officer on duty.

Koestering added: “When you have effects on a target, aviators may want to focus on the objective to ensure the rounds are engaging appropriately, but it’s one of our biggest risks as pilots.

“Apache crews must divide the duties so one is focused on flying while the other is focused on weapons engagement. Acknowledging the risks involved in flight operations helps us mitigate them.”

The latest aerial gunnery comes nearly six years after the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) proposed all eight ANG Apache helicopter battalions move to the active Army force.

However, the US Army and National Guard Bureau announced in January 2018 that 1-130th AB will serve as one of the four Apache helicopter battalions that would remain in the ANG.