Air Defense: Effectiveness of Ground Fire in Iraq


April 5, 2006: During 2005, Coalition forces in Iraq lost a total of 13 aircraft to hostile action, with 11 personnel killed. All but one of the aircraft were helicopters. MANPADs (man-portable anti-aircraft missiles) downed four of the helicopters and the one fixed wing aircraft, with ground fire - primarily small arms - responsible for the other eight helicopter losses. During the year there were reportedly some 1,500 instances of Coalition aircraft being fired upon. That's 3-4 times a day, on average. In over 80-percent of the cases, the fire was from small arms. Much of the ground fire was poorly aimed, or out of range, or struck non-vital parts of the aircraft. MANPADs are thus the more serious threat, but a number of factors reduce their effectiveness, including poor aim, excessive range, and particularly poor maintenance. The bottom line is that less than one percent of the time (once in 115 incidents) that a Coalition aircraft or helicopter is fired on, it will be brought down. There are several hundred Coalition helicopter and aircraft flights a day in Iraq, with less than one percent of them being fired on.


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