Warplanes: August 2, 2003

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Although the U.S. Marines did not lose any attack helicopters in Iraq, they had 49 of their 58 AH-1 and UH-1 choppers shot up so badly that they needed extensive repairs. The marines, like the army, use tactics that allow the armed helicopters to operate over fifty kilometers in front of friendly troops. This tactic has been around a long time without really being exposed to an enemy that is fighting back. The 1991 Gulf war had a ground battle that was over so quickly, against a demoralized Iraqi army, that the helicopters did not have much opportunity to get shot at a lot. But now the army and marines have both seen what a feisty foe on the ground can do to their helicopters. Before the fighting was over in Iraq, helicopter units commanders had changed their tactics, partly because of all the damage their machines were receiving, partly because the ground units were calling for more helicopter gun ships to provide "top cover" for them. This the gunships were happy to provide, as it gave them lots of targets, and a chance to work closely with the troops on the ground. This will probably be the official tactics in the future. 

 


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