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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: U.S. Brass Sees No New Methods, Gaps in Recent Shootdowns

Top U.S. generals say they see an unprecedented "intensity of effort" from Iraqi insurgents but no new methods from them or vulnerabilities in U.S. rotorcraft after a string of helicopters were shot down there.

Military leaders are concerned that the loss of six helicopters in Iraq since the start of 2007 — including at least four confirmed as shootdowns — "represents an intensity of effort that we have not seen in the past," the U.S. Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, told a meeting of business leaders in Washington Feb. 8.

The losses included a UH-60 Black Hawk from the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, which was shot down Jan. 20 in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, killing all 12 Guardsmen on board. On Jan. 23, an OH-6A operated by the contractor Blackwater was shot down in Baghdad. Five days later, two AH-64 crewmembers from 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Div.’s Aviation Cavalry Brigade were killed when their Apache was shot down near Najaf. On Feb. 2, another AH-64 was brought down near Taji, an air base 12 mi north of Baghdad, killing both crewmembers from the 227th’s 1st Battalion.

On Feb. 7, a Marine CH-46 Sea Knight crashed in Anbar province, killing all seven on board. On Jan. 31, a contractor helicopter also was brought down. Both are under investigation.

The losses have prompted "adjustments in our tactics and techniques and procedures as to how we employ our helicopters in support of Iraqi security forces and coalition forces," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen William Caldwell, the U.S. military’s chief spokesman in Iraq. "We are making those appropriate changes.

Still, there is no reason to believe insurgents in Iraq have developed new methods for attacking helicopters or found new vulnerabilities to exploit in those attacks, the U.S. Army’s vice chief of staff said.

"I see no change in trends" in the insurgent’s targeting efforts "and I see no capability gaps" in U.S. helicopters, Gen. Richard Cody told the Associated Press Feb. 10 en route to Bagram Air Base north of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.

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