Learnin' From the Muj?

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The web is packed with folks wondering what the recent rash of helicopter downings in Iraq means to the American war effort.

Basically, it means the enemy has simultaneously figured out how to use the gear stashed in sheds and burrows around the country and found the cojones to use it.

It also means that American helicopter routes had grown a bit too predicatable. After all, we'd flown thousands of sorties for years now without a single shoulder-fired SAM being lobbed skyward.

Those days are over.

Whether Stingers from the CIA by way of the Taliban or SA-18s from Russia by way of Iran, the bad guys have possession of weapons that can reach out and touch our rotary wing aircraft. That's a big eye-opener, considering that going by air was heretofore considered the safer alternative to traveling over IED-infested roads.

So whether or not one wants to consider the lessons learned by the Soviets in Afghanistan, the physics of the situation hasn't changed that much since the late '80s when Hips and Hinds were dropping left and right over and around the Hindu Kush. If you want to avoid small arms fire, fly above 5,000 feet or so; if you want to avoid SAMs, fly low.

So tactics and flying techniques have changed already and will continue to change. I'm sure all the "school house" experts from MAWTS and the other centers of excellence are already on the case.

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At the same time the systems commands like NAVAIR (see photo of H-46 with new chaff and flare dispensers) will work their butts off performing rapid prototyping to get improved self-protect capability out to the field. (Don't even tell me that government employees don't work as hard as the private sector.)

What we're seeing here is the cycle of a protracted war. Fight, analyze, adjust . . . fight again.

In the meantime, helo drivers: Stay unpredictable.

-- Ward

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