AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships have been flying combat missions in support of the Iraqi security forces in the advance from the south on Mosul, a U.S. general said Wednesday.
“They’ve been flying at night, supporting any nighttime operations that the Iraqis are doing” since the Mosul offensive started Monday, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky said of the Boeing Co.-made helicopters in a video briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.
“That platform has a lot of capability to see a long range at night and use its weapons system in a stand-off capacity to strike targets, and that’s what they’re doing,” said Volesky, commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The use of the Apaches had been an open question as the long-awaited push to retake Mosul began with coordinated advances from the south by the Iraqi security forces and from the east by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had barred use of the Apaches in previous campaigns to retake Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, on Tuesday said the Apaches were ready to join the fight but he could not confirm that they had gone into action.
Apache helicopters have been in Iraq since the U.S. began the buildup against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014 but they have been used sparingly, mostly to provide added security for visiting dignitaries in Baghdad.