The U.S. has lost 130 helicopters
in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last six years. Two-thirds of the losses were
to accidents, the rest to enemy action. The Pentagon is not happy with the slow
pace that manufacturers are taking to build new helicopters, to replace those
lost. Currently, it takes about two years to get a new helicopters built, to
replace one lost in action. However, the U.S. Army and Marines have over 5,000
helicopters in service, so the losses are not having any impact on operations.
What does have some impact is the increased efforts the maintenance troops have
to deliver in order to deal with the damage done by operating hundreds of
helicopters in a hot and dusty environment. There are hundreds of helicopters
that have been run down so much by these operations, that they require
extensive refurbishment. This takes several months per aircraft.
During the Vietnam war, 4,642 helicopters were lost
(between 1966-71), 45 percent to combat action. Helicopters were about twice as
likely to be brought down by enemy fire in Vietnam, compared to Iraq and
Afghanistan. More helicopters were used, more frequently, in Vietnam. In Iraq
and Afghanistan, American forces spend more time on the roads, despite the
dangers, in order to stay in touch with the people, and the terrorists.
On the plus side, the helicopter crews are getting
a lot of experience, making American helicopter pilots the most skilled on the
planet. The constant refurbishment of helicopters means that these aircraft are
updated with more modern components and electronics. This increases the
capabilities of these helicopters.