Seven helicopters have crashed in Iraq in the last four weeks. Most
appear to have been hit by hostile fire. In some of those cases, the hostile
fire was carefully planned. That is, multiple machine-guns, including at least
one heavy (12.7mm or larger) machine-gun were placed along a route used by
helicopters, and fired in a coordinated matter. This tactic is called "flak
trap," and dates back to World War II (or earlier).
enemy has also been using portable surface-to-air missiles since 2003,
including more modern models, like the SA-16 (which is similar to the American
Stinger.) American helicopters are equipped with missile detection and defense
(flare dispensers) equipment. Thus the most dangerous anti-aircraft weapon is
the machine-gun. However, aircraft losses to ground fire have been declining
every year, since 2003, mainly because of good defensive tactics. Moreover, the
most vulnerable aircraft, helicopters, have been spending more time in the air.
In 2005, U.S. Army aircraft (mainly helicopters) flew 240,000 hours over Iraq.
That increased to 334,000 hours last year, and is expected to go to 400,000
hours in 2007. The more time helicopters are in the air, the more opportunities
someone has to shoot at them.
2003, the United States has lost 57 helicopters in Iraq. Most of them (29)
belong to the U.S. Army, the rest are marine and civilian (mainly security
contractors.) In the last year, helicopters were fired on about a hundred times
a month, and about 17 percent of the time, the helicopters were hit. In Vietnam
(1966-71), 2,076 helicopters were lost to enemy fire (and 2,566 to non-combat
losses). In Vietnam, helicopters flew 36 million sorties (over 20 million
flight hours). In Vietnam, helicopters were about twice as likely to get
brought down by enemy fire. As in Iraq, the main weapons doing this were
machine-guns. Today's helicopters are more sturdy, partly because of Vietnam
experience, and are more likely to stay in the air when hit, and land, rather