Warplanes: August 26, 2003


In Iraq, a lot of helicopters got shot up, a lot more than in the 1991 war. After examining the incidents where helicopters got hit, it was discovered that a few factors were most responsible for the choppers taking damage. The main factors were speed and daylight. When helicopters moved around at high speed (over 100 kilometers an hour), and not in a straight line, it was difficult for guys on the ground to score a hit. It was also discovered that helicopters rarely got hit when operating at night. Since American forces have lots of night vision equipment, and train a lot at night, youd think that the helicopters would operate a lot more at night. But the helicopters and ground troops dont train much together at night. Once that problem is solved, it will be a lot safer for the helicopters, and easier for the ground troops, since they will have helicopter support at night. One other factor led to a lot of damaged helicopters; Iraqis pretending to surrender, then firing on helicopters (usually while traveling slowly and in a straight line) that had passed over them. Many of these treacherous Iraqis were quickly killed as the helicopters turned on their attackers. But often it was large numbers (as in acres worth) of Iraqis waving white flags while waiting to open fire on the helicopters, and difficult to see exactly where the fire was coming from. The Iraqis had figured out that our ROE (Rules of Engagement) were to not fire on enemy troops showing signs of surrender. Helicopter pilots, and the senior officers who established that ROE, now know to remember that the other side may not be inclined to obey the same rules you are following.


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