With the total of U.S. military helicopters shot down in Iraq since the start of the year rising to eight, the Pentagon is looking at systems and tactics to better protect rotorcraft and the soldiers and Marines on them.
U.S. officials confirmed in late February that the Feb. 7 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight that killed all seven on board was the result of a missile attack, not a mechanical failure. On Feb. 21, a Sikorsky Black Hawk was shot down north of Baghdad. No one was killed in that incident. These were the seventh and eighth confirmed downings this year.
Army officials in Iraq blame most of the shootdowns on an insurgent tactic of using concentrated small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades against helicopters on what have become commonly used routes. The Marine commandant, Gen. James Conway, said the Sea Knight’s anti-missile defensive measures did not release during the missile attack, an indication the enemy may be using a weapon U.S. armed forces have not yet been able to detect. Since that time, the Army reportedly has been discussing adapting a countermeasures system created by Rafael Development Systems for tanks to use on helicopters.