Apaches, which are being used in counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan, can manoeuvre and attack small targets in relatively built-up areas. Heavily-armed Apaches and French Tiger helicopters are equipped with night vision equipment and electronic guidance systems.
Gaddafi forces have shed their uniforms, are using civilian vehicles and hiding armour near civilian buildings, including hospitals and schools.
The decision to deploy the helicopters is a clear recognition that high-level bombing from 15,000 feet cannot protect civilians who continue to be attacked by rocket and mortar shells. It brings the Nato offensive much closer to the ground at a time when Britain and other Nato countries are insisting they have no intention of sending in troops.
However, the helicopters could be vulnerable to hand-held rocket propelled grenades and even rifle fire.
I’ve seen this movie before, and I didn’t particularly like how it ended. And in Somalia, at least, there were US Army Rangers no very great distance away ready to act as a quick reaction force.