Air Transportation: How Much Ground Fire for Heavy Lifters

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November29, 2006: U.S. Air Force transports operating over Iraq and Afghanistan have been fired on at least 215 times in the last year, most frequently by assault rifles and machine-guns. C-130s got the most attention, taking fire 85 times. But even the larger C-17s got shot at 25 times. Some 70 percent of those attacks occur when the aircraft are below 5,000 feet, and that's usually when they are coming in for a landing, or to parachute supplies to troops below. Air force helicopters take most of the fire, and hits. The C-17s get hit about once a year, usually by a few bullets. In 2003, a C-17 got hit by a shoulder fired missile, and lost an engine before landing safely. The transports have probably been fired at more often, but unless the enemy scores a hit, the enemy fire often goes undetected by the crew, or friendly troops below. This is especially true during the day, when you can't see gun flashes. Since the war on terror began, air force transports have suffered more damage because of accidents or equipment failure, than because of enemy ground fire. USAF transports encounter enemy fire, on average, once every few hundred flights. But a lot depends on where you are flying. In Iraq and Afghanistan, some areas are "hot spots", and much more likely to be the scene of ground fire.

 


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