Iraq: November 2, 2003

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A Russian portable surface-to-air missile brought down an American CH-47D Chinook helicopter, killing 16 American troops and wounding 20 more. The helicopter was flying over a pro-Saddam Sunni Arab area, where it is not uncommon for aircraft to be fired on. The missile involved, probably a SAM-7, was known to be available in Iraqi in large quantities. Saddam had bought thousands of these missiles, and they were used to some effect against American aircraft in 1991 and 2003. Light aircraft and helicopters are particularly vulnerable to the SAM-7, because these are very vulnerable to the loss of an engine. The 22 ton CH-47D has two gas turbine engines that generate a lot of heat, just the sort of thing missiles like the SAM-7 go looking for. There have been dozens of SAM-7s fired at coalition helicopters and aircraft in the last few months, but because of old or damaged missiles, or untrained operators, none have connected. But it was obvious that this situation would not go on forever. Coalition troops were aggressively looking for SAM-7s, and offering civilians a $500 bounty for each one they turned in. But in the last month, it discovered that Baath Party and al Qaeda were offering over a thousand dollars for anyone who would sell them a SAM-7. The looting that took place after the war saw lots of weapons grabbed by civilians as loot. Now those weapons are on the market, and the bad guys have an edge because they are not constantly searching for the weapons and trying to seize them. Baath and al Qaeda go forth with cash, not guns, to obtain their missiles. 

 

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