Tags: Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | helicopters | gunships | fight

US Helicopter Gunships Enter Fight Against ISIS

By    |   Tuesday, 07 Oct 2014 06:24 PM

Low-flying Apache AH-64 attack helicopters have joined the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq — a significant escalation of the U.S.-led military campaign to take back territory seized by the radical movement's fighters, according to news reports.

"It's definitely boots in the air," Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, told McClatchy News Service.

The use of close-combat helicopter gunships against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, "opens up a new capability in the airstrike campaign … but one that also comes with risks, as they could be vulnerable to ground fire," ABC News reported.

Iraqi security forces requested the Apaches for close-in air support against ISIS fighters in Fallujah, one of several towns in Iraq's Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where battles are raging, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Apache crews used their sensors and weaponry against ISIS mortar positions, fighting units and a bunker, the Journal reported, citing U.S. a military spokesperson.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton told WSJ Live that the arrival of Apache helicopters is "a potential game-changer in favor of the U.S.-led coalition" against ISIS, although he maintained that ground forces will still be required against the Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria.

President Barack Obama has said that the United States will not be drawn into another ground war in the Middle East following the U.S. military's full withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.

"This is one way to bring close air support to friendly forces without having troops on the ground," Rick Brennan, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp., told the Journal.

But White, the former DIA official, told McClatchy, "Using helicopter gunships in combat operations means those forces are in combat,” and he argued that their introduction is an admission that airstrikes by higher-altitude fighter jets alone weren't working.

While low-flying, hovering aircraft with multiple weapons and tracking systems give military forces a better read on their targets, they are also easier to shoot down. The Journal cited a Brookings Institution report showing that helicopter casualties accounted for 9% of U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, while winged aircraft incidents accounted for 1.2% of deaths.

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Low-flying Apache AH-64 attack helicopters have joined the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq — a significant escalation of the U.S.-led military campaign to take back territory seized by the radical movement's fighters, according to news reports.
helicopters, gunships, fight
363
2014-24-07
Tuesday, 07 Oct 2014 06:24 PM
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