|In less than four weeks the US lost six helicopters in Iraq, most of them to enemy fire:
1. On October 23 a US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed shortly after take-off from a base in Kirkuk.
2. A US Army UH-60A combat assault helicopter (3-158th Avn. Reg., 12th Avn. Brgd.) was shot down on October 25 in the area of Falluja.
3. On November 2 a US Army CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter was downed near Tikrit.
4. A UH-60A combat assault helicopter (5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) was lost over Tikrit.
5. On November 15 two UH-60A combat assault helicopters were brought down over Mosul.
The November 2 Chinook incident resulted in 16 US troops killed and 20 seriously injured making this the deadliest single coalition aircraft loss of the war (36 people is the maximum capacity for this type of helicopter. The previous deadliest coalition aircraft loss in Iraq, reported by Pentagon was the crash of the UH-60A helicopter (US Army, B Company/ 2-3 AVN) on April 2 killing all 6 troops onboard.
The total number of US troops killed in Iraq on November 2 was 19 making this the second deadliest day of the Iraqi war for the Americans. The loss of the two Black Hawks over Mosul on November 15 resulted in 17 US soldiers killed and another 5 seriously injured.
The US military officials have so far confirmed that at least one of the two Black Hawks was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. US officials originally claimed that the cause of the loss of the two Black Hawks was mid-air collision between the two helicopters.
This brings to 27 the number of coalition helicopters destroyed in the OperationIraqi Freedom. Another 45 coalition helicopters were damaged in Iraq. Other coalition aircraft losses include 26 lost UAVs, 10 destroyed and 2 damaged planes for a total of 110 aircraft officially reported as lost or damaged.
What makes the latest helicopter losses stand out is the weapon used to bring them down: the RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher first introduced into service more than forty years ago. The same weapon was used to shoot down the two Black Hawks over Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993
The RPG-7 (Knut)or(Knout)originally manufactured by Russia's Kovrov Mechanical Plant entered service with the Warsaw Pact armies in 1962 and to this day remains the most effective and popular weapon in its class. It is still in production. The RPG-7 is a 40-mm-diameter tube about a meter long with the PGO-7 rangefinder optical sight. The entire assembly without the rocket-propelled grenade weighs just over 6 kg. Various types of ammo are available for the RPG-7. The original PG-7 grenade uses a VP-7M Point-Initiating, Base-Detonating piezoelectric fuse connected at the base of a shaped charge. The PG-7 round and its derivative weigh between 4-5 kg and have a maximum effective range of under 200 meters. The round can penetrate 1.5 m of reinforced concrete, 2 m of bricks, 750 mm of armored steel protected by reactive armor. A helicopter stands no chance when hit by PG-7 round.
Later models of RPG-7 may come with night vision or IR targeting sights. The RPG-7 copies and derivative are currently manufactured in Russia, China, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Pakistan, and Romania.
Until recently RPG-7 was also manufactured by Iraqi state arsenal near Al-Nassiria. Tens of thousands RPG-7s and PG-7 rounds were purchased and produced by Iraq. So far the US troops in Iraq located just a few hundred such weapons.
The RPG-7 is used primarily to defeat armored vehicles and reinforced firing positions. The weapon has rudimentary targeting capabilities and limited accuracy. Weeks of proper training is needed to use RPG-7 effectively against moving vehicles or against distant targets. The RPG-7 was never intended as an anti-aircraft weapon. Shooting down a helicopter with RPG-7 requires a direct hit and calls for considerable skill and experience.
If you never fired RPG-7 or if you used it once or twice you'd be lucky to hit a stationary tank from 50 yards, provided you have ample time to load the propellant, insert the missile into the launcher, remove the safety pin and get the targeting right, while remaining undetected.
The Black Hawk downed on October 25 was hit at least 20 miles from the nearest US base. This means that the helicopter was not taking-off or landing but flying at around 150-190 knots and a few hundred feet.
Reloading the RPG-7 takes about a minute during which a helicopter would travel around 5 kilometers. This means that you would have only one shot. One helicopter lost to an RPG-7 can be attributed to bad luck. However, three or four helicopters downed by this weapon in such a short period of time are a work of skillful marksmen. Skillful means experienced and the only country to regularly lose helicopters to RPG-7 ironically is the country that built this weapon. Since the outbreak of the