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CRUNCH TIME FOR COPTERS IN IRAQ

ah64_large.jpgIt wasn't too long ago that some wags were calling on the U.S. Army to mothball its attack helicopter corps -- or go through a major revision, at least.But as the insurgency grinds on, American commanders are relying on helicopters like the Apache, Kiowa, and Marine Cobra more than they ever have before, the Associated Press reports.Since February, the 1st Cavalry Division's aviation brigade "has flown 50,000 combined hours in its nearly 100 helicopters, the highest airborne rate in division history," says the AP.The copters have been so busy, they're now routinely being pushed beyond military flight recommendations.

Lt. Col. Mike Lundy, commander of the 1st Cavalry's Kiowa regiment, said each of his armed Kiowas flies around 105 hours per month, well over the recommended 65 hours.Major overhauls normally done every two years are now needed every six months, said Maj. John Agor, the maintenance chief.In the case of the Apache, the interval between complete overhauls been pushed back from once every 250 hours to once every 500 hours, said Agor.
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