My other ride is a AH-1 Cobra, AKA: Attack Helicopter Piggyback

Okay, so this is the Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter that you know and love.  I took this picture out on the range during some Call For Fire training in Afghanistan about six years ago.  Things started to get really interesting during the night fire when our IR lasers stopped about 50 feet in front of us due to a giant cloud of dust created from previous gun runs.  The Marine pilots thought were were lazing something right in front of us and went ahead and dumped cannon fire from their minigun almost down on our laps.  Good times.

During a familiarization brief one of the pilots began telling us about how they had a HVT squirt off an objective a few months before we arrived in country.  Showing their now familiar gusto, the pilots landed, picked up several Rangers and flew them off in front of the HVT’s evasion route for an intercept.  “Huh, what?” was our initial response.  How did they pull that one off?

The pilot explained to us that in an emergency situation, or in a moment of inspiration like the squirter incident, that the door on the side of the helicopter that closes over where the minigun’s ammunition is loaded from can be dropped down where it would stay horizontal.  In this manner, several operators could snap into the handles on the ammo crate inside and ride while sitting on the open hatch sort of like the external pod on a Little Bird helicopter.

I was instantly having some John Wayne type fantasies about actually doing this but had never actually seen this done and remained unsure of how it would all shake out in combat conditions.  Pics or it didn’t happen, right?














Before anyone goes nuts on me about OPSEC violations, these pictures were not taken by me or anyone I know.  These turned up on a Chinese language message board recently.  If there was any OPSEC regarding this TTP it is already well and truly blown so I’m not hesitant to re-post these images.  If anyone has any additional details about the events pictures above, please drop us a line!

Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the military thriller Reflexive Fire.

  • mpower6428

    i heard about this (and seen these pics) more then a year ago…. where you been soldier. anyhoo, there’s nothing more satisfying to a life long civilian with a left wing complex then pics of servicemen ready, willing and abile to break the rules.

    i just wish the US military budget was less apt to fund “state of the art” weapons projects. (drones dont throw out the regs)

    allow me to go further…. our military has never in its existance had so many out of the box, tech savy thinkers in its entire existance. one day defense experts will look back on this time in our history and shake their collective heads in disappointment…. “why couldnt these guys be retained” threw pay and bennifits. Hans von Seekt would be embarressed for us.

    • jrexilius

      I think the phrase Semper Gumby predated this current war, but yes, I agree we have same great adaptability in the current generation. We did in WWII as well and the military was way less permissive of it then.

      I think necessity is the mother of invention and it’s hard to argue necessity in peace time and harder still to maintain discipline with no clear external threat so I can see us loosing it during the coming draw downs. Assuming they last long that is, which seems less likely than in the 80’s and 90’s.

  • Flippy

    The Royal Marines did this a few years back with an Apache to rescue a fallen comrade form a compound, unfortunately by the time they got to him he had died.

    • Flippy

      please delete this due to the typo

  • Flippy

    The Royal Marines did this a few years back with an Apache to rescue a fallen comrade from a compound, unfortunately by the time they got to him he had died.

  • FormerSFMedic

    Jack, I’m right there with ya. We had an A-10 spit a string of 30mm pills from its GAU8/Avenger not too far from our position in Afghanistan. Absolutely devastating destruction. I’m guessing the 20mm M197 was probably about the same. Good times for sure!

    • reflexivefire

      Marine pilots got some brass ones…

  • Mark

    There is video from the IDF about two years ago showing the same thing I believe. I think another helicopter was down so they flew in with one or two guys on the skids and flew out with the crew. My memory is hazy on the details but I do know it was IDF and about two years ago.

  • Todd

    This has been done with Cobras since Vietnam, actually. It’s obviously never been an SOP, but often times just a necessity. And If I remember correctly, the above pictures we’re from early on in A-stan, and it was necessary because of disabled vehicle, wounded pax, closing enemy.

    The Army aparantly now has an SOP for this with the Apache, and is even courteous enough to give up the gunner (front) seat for the wounded/pax, and the AIRCEW member rides outside! (see page below for details)

    • Evulgenious

      There are features about an Apache helicopter that make this front seat ride to anybody but a qualified pilot very, very dangerous. It could be done on early model Apache’s, but not now.

      • hamchuck

        Um… yes it can.

        • Evulgenious

          Really, dude? And just how do you turn off the SPAD system? Or, do you even know what that is?

  • Panzerhund0311

    Reminds me of the GI Joe “Dragonfly” helicopter that had the foot pegs to place a GI Joe guy to stand on. He would be standing on the skid to go and fight Cobra, “A ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world”.

  • Payce

    I read somewhere about an Army Apache giving lifts to the crew of another shot down chopper, I’ll try and find the article.

  • Evulgenious

    Jack, send me an email to my private email and I will talk more about this with you. Despite being Navy, I was one of the very first mechanics to qualify on this airframe when it was still in its prototype stage.

  • albud3

    I was a 68J working on the AH-1F at Ft Campbell 80-83. This form of transport was used back in VN as relayed to us by our PLT leader…an old CWO4 with a couple of tours in country. While it was not a recommended form of travel back then, he said that they picked up fellow Cobra crews that had went down in VC/NVA country.

    IIRC, the Marines have a similar setup on their SeaCobras, but they have rope loops on the wings near the attachment points.

    • reflexivefire

      Gangster Status!

  • deadhorse

    I have a video of this exact same thing except with an Army AH-64 Apache, but not by sitting on the ammo compartment door. Used as emergency EXFIL.

  • jack

    Poster (from what I believe is the same incident) has been hanging on the wall at Navy flight school for the last couple of years. It was put up as a ‘been there done that’ from instructor to students to help build morale. Pretty cool.

  • hamchuck

    In my early days of flying the Apache– A-models then– one of our most senior guys was a Vietnam Cobra vet. In the seventies he was a member of an Army jump club and had use of a Huey. One day the Huey broke. So they fired up one of the Cobras and sat the jumpers exactly where they are in the article there. It didn’t make his chain of command very happy, though.

  • Nick

    Those pics are from a documentary about a Marine reserve unit from Atlanta GA. That particular pic is of some SF soldiers who needed to be picked up and go after the guys who were firing on them. They strapped them to the ammo compartments and took off after the bad guys. I do beleive that was the first time it was ever attempted.
    Nothing in that pic is a violation of OPSEC, it was on TV.

  • Lance

    Looks fun. You got me to think of a cool idea why don’t the USMC and Army sell older AH-1G-T model cobras and make some money then?Greece and other made money selling M-60A1 tanks to Afghanistan and we just gave them M-60s and UH-1s for free lets charge them a bit for it.

  • old Cobra pilot

    was done on an infrequent basis in RVN with AH-1G’s. My unit had seat belts clipped into the rings in the ammo bay for just such occasions. We also had an AH-1G pull what was left of a LRRP team straddling the rocket pods, facing aft.

  • hamchuck

    It’s not a SPAD… dude. It’s an ARDD. Difference between an Alpha model and a Longbow… dude. For the frontseater to take the controls, there’s a specific sequence of events that has to happen. Do you know what that is… dude?

  • hamchuck

    And to specify, since you’ll probably jump all over it, I mean to take the controls in way that completely locks out the back seater.

  • Billy

    Is that how our military do drive bys???

  • Really nice pics! I will quote this post at my blog!

  • ssss

    Military Channel: Red Dog, On the Hunt.
    NBC News Nightline with Ted Coppel

  • @FormerSFMedic – I edited the 30mm HEI hits and then slowed them down. Bet this will make some muscles twitch :)

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  • WTF?

    I flew an AH-1G for the air cav in Vietnam. This method of extraction goes back that far. We always had two sets of a/c seat belts, already attached to hard points, on each side of our snakes in the ammo bays. All you had to do was open the door, sit down and buckle up. Although I never extracted this way, I have seen it done. Beats the heck out of outrunning the NVA back to your troop area.

  • ALSE in Afghanistan

    Yes it can be done. The PMAirWarrior that provides all the aviation wearable gear even has a specific item called the Safety Restraint Tether with instructions in the manual for how to do it.

    • Brad

      I do know who on of these soldiers is. He is a good friend of mine that is an 18D. he was an E8 when this happened. He is now an E9 getting ready to retire.

  • Leo Bloom

    This topic is currently under discussion in Straight Dope,….

    Thanks to Kim Kardashian…

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  • Doug Smith.

    The story you published is from Nightline. ( Task force Red Dog. ) you can go to YouTube and watch the story.