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The Pegasus Division idea is an interesting concept, and as Mr Meyer points out, questions such as the viability of operating such large numbers of aircraft at low level can only be answered by actual trials.
Several points do occur to me, however.
One theatre where the Pegasus division may operate effectively is in the desert, where good visibility and long engagement ranges may favour them. Mountainous terrain may also suit them.
- Can such small helicopters mount sufficient physical and electronic defensive systems?
- Can they mount sufficient target acquisition systems to use stand off weaponry?
- Close range attack/strafing "Horses" will be very vulnerable to machine gun and massed assault rifle fire unless the enemy is well routed.
- Will "flying and firing" or "flying and designating" be too much for a single crew member? Two seater "Horses" may be needed. In World War One, single engine two-seater aircraft were in fact the most important aircraft type, their duties including:- Contact patrolling, observation, artillery spotting, reconnaissance, photography, bombing, trench strafing, spy dropping, escort and air superiority missions. Many two seaters were a match for the single seater fighters.
One thing I do question is whether all of the Pegasus divisions aircraft need to be helicopters? Might not some of the roles be filled by Autogyros?
Before I began researching this article I'd though of modern autogyros as being small, single seater aircraft with open cockpits. In fact there are numerous enclosed and two seat models, and even autogyros that will hold 4-8 people. The following links give an idea of civilian craft currently available.
Griffon Flying APC proposal
From what I understand about autogyros:-
- They don't need much more maintenance than a motorcycle.
- They cost around $5000-7000.
- Can take off in under 30yrds. Some designs can take of in less than 50ft and land in under 20ft.
- The most difficult part of flying any aircraft is landing, but autogyros can pretty much land themselves near-vertically by means of autorotation.
The most famous autogyro is probably Little Nellie in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. A real military autogyro is unlikely to have such an impressive array of weapons, but Pegasus autogyros could have a internal ventral bay with a universal mounting that can take a .50 M2HB, ASP-30 cannon or a Mk-19 grenade launcher.
Autogyros will have applications other than as Pegasus Horses.
They can be used to patrol borders or the perimeters of airbases.
They can act as battalion or company level aerial reconnaissance, for example, as part of a convoy escort force. In this role the autogyro can patrol ahead and to the flanks of the convoy, looking for ambushes. If a foe is detected the autogyro can strafe them, mark their location and call in artillery and mortar fire.
The autogyro's very short take off and landing requirements mean that in the event of a communication problem the pilot can simply land and give his report personally to the column commander.
A reconnaissance autogyro should carry some armament, even it is just to engage targets of opportunity or suppress ground fire. A pair of M60 or M240 machine guns should be practical. If the aircraft is downed these can be dismounted to defend the pilots. The autogyro will probably also carry light rockets to mark targets. If the 2.75 FFAR proves too much of a load, the Italians have a 51mm weapon of 4.8kg weight as opposed to 7.5kg. It is possible that both the machine guns and marker rockets could be replaced by a Mk-19 loaded with HEDP and Smoke marker rounds.
Microlight aircraft can be used for troop insertion duties as an alternative to helicopters or parachuting. Use of such systems may give the unit an organic capability to extract itself too.
Autogyros could be used in this role, but conventional fixed wing microlights may prove just as suitable, as may the parajet system. Whichever system is used it should have a low radar and audio signature.
Microlights or autogyros used for troop insertions should include the capacity to transport All terrain bikes and carts so the troops can move from the landing zone to the objective.
The capability to land on water, possibly using hydroskis may prove useful too.
Some of these aircraft should be armed for the eventuality of an occupied landing site. Weapons should be capable of being dismounted and used in a ground role once the aircraft have landed. It is possible that some aircraft would remain flying to provide air support to the ground elements.
It may also be possible to launch microlights or autogyros from larger aircraft such as the C-17 or C-130. One type of microlight has a larger version of a flat 'chute as a wing, and this version should theoretically be air launchable.
Experiments were performed with dropping Gyrocopters from aircraft during World War Two.
Intriguing little side note in a book on German aircraft - after the war one of the German helicopter experts worked on the XH-20 - a disposable one man helicopter.
Other Support Aircraft Ideas.