October 24, 2007:
American helicopters in Iraq are currently getting fired on about once every
30-40 hours in the air. In other words, not a lot. Most of the fire is from
rifles and machine-guns. These cause damage, but rarely bring down a
helicopter. RPG warheads are more dangerous, but much less accurate. However,
if one of these warheads hits a chopper in the right place, it will bring the
bird down. If the warhead doesn't hit in that right place, it will still cause lots
of damage, and probably injuries to the crew. The most dangerous weapon is the
portable anti-aircraft missile. Because more of these missiles are being
brought over from Iran, attacks using them, have more than doubled in the last
few months, and now make up about five percent of all attacks on helicopters.
These attacks are easily defeated with the countermeasures carried by all U.S.
choppers (VIDEO). But countermeasures can fail from time to time, and if that happens
when a missile is coming your way, the results can be catastrophic. The
anti-missile system lets the pilot know when a missile is incoming, so even
when the chopper is not hit, the crew gets a little unplanned excitement. The
big fear is that Iran will send over the latest models of these missiles, which
can sometimes get past the countermeasures (flares ejected from the target
helicopter, which lure the missile away).