Sunday, February 04, 2007

Helicopter losses

There hasn't seemed to have been many obvious connections between what the British Army learned in its three-decade long counter-insurgency campaign in Northern Ireland and the situation in Iraq, but I do remember some years ago reading that what the British military feared most was the IRA getting ground to air missiles. In the rural areas near the border with Ireland, known as 'bandit country', land transport was never safe even for military forces, let alone the police, so the UK relied greatly on helicopters for resupplying border observation posts, to ferry troops around and the like. As far as I remember no British helicopter was ever shot down. The Soviets started losing in Afghanistan when the mujahideen began to be able to bring down their helicopter gunships as well, and it was tactics that were developed in Afghanistan that were used by the Somalia fighters who brought down the US Blackhawks in Mogadishu in 1993. So the news that the US has lost another helicopter to ground fire is very worrying, suggesting that insurgents are getting - and being able to deploy - heavier weapons and whilst the fighting gets worse - particularly in the light of yesterdays horrendous truck-bombing - it is going to be harder for the US forces to be able to move around to try and stop that violence.


Anonymous said...

British Army lost a Lynx Helicopter with the loss of its crew in Iraq last year from Ground Fire. Low level operations always involve a risk from Ground fire wire strikes or something as unpredictable as a bird strike.

KGS said...

This of course gives ample impetus to the notion that the US needs to confront Iran for its role in killing US soldiers in Iraq.

Iran has provided logistics, men, explosives and training for the insurgents. The introduction of surface to air "stinger" type missles ups the ante that much more.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

I don't know if Iran is or isn't supplying MANPADs to Iraqi groups. Your suggested link was quoting another blog entry the whole point of which was to say that there isn't any hard evidence but circumstantial evidence alone is enough to go to war with Iran. But unless you know of some hard evidence that Iranian MANPADs are the ONLY weapon-system bringing down helicopters your bellicose rhetoric is all rather by-the-by. The helicopters in Mogadishu were downed by very run-of-the-mill RPGs fired at the rear rotor - exactly the tactic that the Afghanis developed before the US started giving the Mujahideen stingers. Confronting Iran isn't necessarily going to do anything to stop the Iraqi groups bringing down helicopters in Iraq.

Alex said...

More than one way to skin a Blackhawk, y'know. DShKa machine guns are good..

Anyway, someone shot down an FA18 with a MANPAD right back at the beginning of the show. The Iraqi Army had plenty of them. No need, as ever, to postulate Dr Evil theories.

I think the 'Ra did shoot down one Lynx sometime in the 1980s, after they got a delivery including a dozen SA-7. I'd love to know which bog those are buried in..

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Damn you Alex and your incredibly timely replies! I was just about to do a whole post based around your IED research a week or so ago in connection to this discussion, and you beat me to it. I will soldier on even if you have stolen my thunder...qpz

Bob Hughes said...

I hate to lower the tone but... Manpads?

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Sorry - "manpads" sound slightly amusing don't they? But MANPADS - Man Portable Air Defence Systems. A ground to air missile fired from a soldier's shoulder.

KGS said...

Interestingly enough that air ops in the past two years remained relatively free from any such surface activity. If shooting at the rotors with a machine gun or an rpg was enough to do it, it would already have been a common pratice, with US counter measure taking it inot account..

The "all of a sudden" downing of four US copters spells of an introduction of a new weapons system into the war zone. To dismiss my assertion as "bellicose rhetoric" while Iranian high grade explosives, shells, rocket launchers have made its way into Iraq, is totally unfair and unreasonable.

It's a fact that Iran has been smuggling weapons into Iraq:




I see where the incredibly naive and farsical ISG "Baker" Report borrowed most of its ideas from:

The shock, the shock of it all!

Toby, it's well within the Iranian's capabilities and in their interests to cause as much (limited scale) mayhem against US troops as possible. Iran is home to the present day Ho Chi Min trail, that is creating US casualties for the sole purpose of affecting US public opininion.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

But there is nothing new about aircraft being shot down, it has happened throughout the war. The worst single British loss of the war C-130 shot down in 2005 killing all ten on board. The UK then announced it was minimizing low level use of Hercules' during the day because of the risk. And here is a cached news item from Yahoo outlining some US helicopter downings - accidental and shoot-downs - going back to 2003: