debkafile’s military sources: Did a novel type of “flying roadside bomb” down three US helicopters in Iraq?

US forces in Iraq are encountering a new Sunni insurgent anti-air weapon which is proving deadly for low-flying helicopters. It works on the same principle as the roadside bomb (IED or improvised explosive device).
This primitive weapon is thought to account for the unexplained downing in 10 days of three American combat helicopters: A UH-60 Black Hawk over Mosul on Jan. 8 in which 8 service personnel and 4 civilians were killed; A US OH-58 D Kiowa military helicopter which crashed near Mosul on Jan. 13, killing its two pilots and an Apache AH-64 which came down north of Baghdad on June 16. Two more pilots were lost in the third crash, bringing to 16 the total of American combat personnel lost in the three attacks.
(Photo of the Apache was published by the insurgent Moujahiddin Army on Jan. 16)
The downed craft were full of many small holes that were apparently pierced by metal shards of mortar or artillery shells and scattered across a broad radius by an explosive blast.
American investigators discovered the cause of the crashes as being a new primitive though lethal aerial weapon improvised by the Iraqi insurgents and working on the same principle as the roadside bombs which strike passing military convoys on Iraq’s roads. The projectile is fired to a height of some 17 meters before being detonated alongside a chopper and covering it in a shower of sharp metal shards.
This assumption was confirmed when a unit of the US 101st Airborne Division discovered a large cache of materials for building improvised explosive devices near Hawija on the Tigris River east of Balad.
They reportedly found a quantity of mortar shells, fuses, detonation cord, radios, cell phones and materials for making explosives. This cache combined with incoming intelligence told US commanders that the insurgents were deploying firing squads at key points along the flight paths of US helicopters and ordering them to shoot when they fly low enough to hit. They use missile launchers and re-designed mortar tubes or radio signals. By firing several of these improvised bombs simultaneously, the Iraqi insurgents create an aerial “daisy chain,” a trap the targeted helicopters finds it very hard to evade.
In some cases, the Iraqi guerrillas set a double trap. A roadside bomb first strikes a US land convoy. The medical helicopter summoned to lift the casualties will then be targeted by the new weapon as it comes in low to pick them up. Being marked with a Red Cross provides no immunity in Iraq’s savage war.

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