Fly Around the Danger

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Theres an interesting piece in todays issue of USA Today with an update on how the U.S. military is reacting to the spate of helicopter shoot-downs earlier this year.

Instead of looking solely to technological answers to the problem, commanders are restricting helo flyways, funneling them into narrower and narrower flight paths.

The enlargement of several "no-fly zones" north of Baghdad marked as red circles on aviation maps may be yielding results. Enemy fire brought down at least seven U.S. military helicopters between Jan. 20 and Feb. 21, but there have been no new reported shootdowns since that period.

But, interestingly, the Army in Iraq is also shifting to more and more night operations. Thats a tactic the Marines have been using for at least the last two years over most of Iraq, flying troop transport missions under night optical devices in blackout conditions.

Electronic countermeasures can only do so much as weve seen with counter-IED efforts so TTPs have to make up for the rest. But there could be a down side.

Enlarging the no-fly zones may push pilots repeatedly into the same areas, creating a pattern insurgents could detect, said Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Remington, who pilots a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the 2nd Battalion.

"It's just a matter of time before the enemy realizes, 'Hey, they used to come that way, now they're coming this way,' " Remington said.

And one has to wonder if the latest order from Sadr for his militia forces to hole up during the initial stages of the Baghdad security crackdown has more to do with the respite than anything else.

-- Christian

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