Sunday, November 1, 2009

military helicopters in Iraq

The loss of five military helicopters in Iraq from insurgent fire hasn’t stopped the Air Force from flying its helicopter and airplane missions there, the commander of Central Air Forces, Lt. Gen. Gary North, said during a Feb. 16 press conference.

“We still fly helicopters. We still do our mission,” North told reporters.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force flies HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters for search-and-rescue missions and the larger MH-53 Pave Lows for special operations taskings. Both helicopters are equipped with missile-detection systems that automatically dispense flares and activate other countermeasures.

The Air Force steadily works with the Army and Marine Corps to evaluate tactics and flight procedures and decide what changes need to be made, North said.

As of mid-February, the Air Force hadn’t lost any helicopters in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2007. In earlier years, the service lost two Pave Lows in Iraq and two Pave Lows and Pave Hawks each in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan crashes were announced to be accidents while the causes of the two crashes in Iraq were not disclosed.

The Army has lost 29 helicopters to enemy fire in Iraq since March 2003, an Army official said. The majority of the attacks involved machine-gun and heavy-machine-gun fire, categorized as up to 23 mm. Some surface-to-air missiles, such as SA-7s, SA-14s and SA-16s, were used.

In the past four weeks, two Army UH-60 Black Hawks and two AH-64 Apaches have been shot down, killing 16 soldiers; a Marine CH-46 Sea Knight went down outside Baghdad on Feb. 7, killing all seven Marines onboard; and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed Sunday in Afghanistan, killing eight service members, including airman Scott Duffman, and wounding 14


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