Hails "Rapid And Very Capable Response" To Insurgents
The Army's top aviation
officer said the US military has broken up a network of insurgents
responsible for a series of deadly attacks on helicopters in Iraq
Maj. Gen. James Simmons told USA Today in a telephone interview
from Iraq, some insurgent teams were killed when US helicopter
pilots fired on ambush sites.
"I don't think they anticipated our rapid and very capable
response to them," he said.
Simmons wouldn't give specific information on the raid like the
number of insurgents killed or captured, but did say it was fewer
A sudden increase in fatal attacks on US helicopters this past
winter threatened to jeopardize flight operations, not to mention
giving the insurgent groups too much press.
Twenty-three service members died in January and February when
six military helicopters were shot down by enemy fighters using
heavy machine guns, a missile, and small arms. Two private
contractor helicopters were taken down as well.
Two servicemen were injured during an attack on a Kiowa
helicopter on May 8, and a Black Hawk helicopter was forced down by
heavy machine gun fire April 5, but there were no injuries,
according to the Army. There have been no fatal helicopter attacks
According to Simmons, the raid gave allied forces more control
in Iraqi airspace to aid the three-month-old security plan and was
a military and intelligence success.
"It has helped us in our ability to conduct operations without
significant interference from the enemy," he said.
The use of helicopters in Iraq has increased to reduce the
number of vulnerable ground convoys.
"It offsets the threat of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on
the road networks," Simmons said.
Though helicopters are frequent target for attack, averaging 90
to 100 times a month, Simmons said, most are by ineffective
small-arms fire. But the winter attacks were different. The group
used heavy machine guns and terrain to their advantage and had
clearly studied regularly flown routes.
"The difference (in these attacks) is they were deliberate
military operations conducted in an ambush style against our
aircraft," Simmons said, adding the military limited the airspace
where helicopters could operate in March.
US forces combined air attacks with ground assaults that
captured insurgents in the raids, Simmons said. Gathered
information allowed the US to launch counter-ambushes, using US
aircraft to target the teams.
"The information that we have been able to exploit from those
offensive operations has given us further insight as to how they
fight," he said.
Although the US has boosted the number of troops in Iraq,
violence has not declined. April was one of the deadliest months
since the war began in 2003. In January and February, 162 American
troops died and more than 230 have died in the 11 weeks since the
beginning of March.