The helicopter, for all its unique capabilities, still remains a large soft and noisy target, especially in the case of the Boeing CH-47.
In these very pages in November 2008 we collectively discussed the major shortfalls of the CH-47 as a replacement platform in the CSAR role (noise and size). Tragically, all of these major shortfalls came to pass in August 2011 with the downing of Extortion 17 (www.armyaircrews.com) and its valuable load of SEALs and special operatives. All one has to do is look at that website to see the number of CH-47 that have been downed by RPGs in this conflict. A large, slow and noisy weapon system will always be a juicy target for even the most challenged gunner.
When the U.S. Army shoot down assessment team issues its final report, it will find that not only did an RPG hit the aircraft, but it had numerous small arms hits as well, which no doubt contributed to the downing of this helicopter. Helicopters will always be a soft target, but taking a large, soft and noisy target into a known hot area where RPGs are prevalent is asking for disaster and unfortunately, that’s what happened.
Very few if any soft targets can withstand a hit from an RPG and continue, without suffering a major malfunction causing mission degradation.
It is obvious even to the most casual observer that the TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) and lessons learned from Takur Ghar shoot down of a CH-47 in March of 2007 were ignored, and we paid a price for that.
Those of us who have flown helicopters in combat know that you cannot fully eliminate the threat entirely, but you can mitigate it with lessons learned! Senior commanders need to re-think the use of large slow rotorcraft assets, or they will suffer the same tragic loss of life again, something we can ill afford in this conflict.
Col. Clyde Romero (USAF Ret)
Thanks for the interesting piece on Chinook’s 50th anniversary (Chinook Upgrades Take Hold, November 2011) at Boeing’s Ridley Park complex (formerly the Baldwin Locomotive Works). Judging from the sad state of Army ground-vehicle modernization efforts, it makes more sense to upgrade proven combat systems than to start over with new designs. Chinook, Apache, Black Hawk and Kiowa all seem to be thriving.
Having been a military helicopter inspector and now a law enforcement helicopter inspector you can tell the difference pretty quick. The military are all the same, on each model you know where everything is. On a civilian aircraft you find electrical diagrams are similar but not always the same. That the aircraft was more “hand made” than production line.
Aircraft Maintenance Quality Control Inspector
Maryland State Police Aviation Command
The following comments appeared on Rotor & Wing’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/rotorandwing
(Responding to the question, “Based on visual appeal alone, in your opinion what’s the best looking helicopter or helicopters?”)
Well, difficult to say! For me, MD500E, Aerospatiale Gazelle, E-Sky Lama, Bell 214B1 and the AgustaWestland AW109 Grand.
The Eurocopter EC365 Dolphin hands down is the sexiest, especially in Coast Guard skins.