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Military Defends Helicopter Equipment

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  • Military Defends Helicopter Equipment

    Military Defends Helicopter Equipment

    Associated Press
    November 6, 2003

    WASHINGTON - The Army helicopter that was shot down by missiles in Iraq, killing 15 soldiers, was equipped with a standard package of defensive equipment including a missile alert system and flares designed to decoy a missile, a U.S. officer said Wednesday.

    An Illinois senator, whose state National Guard had provided the helicopter, had written to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asking whether the helicopter had been properly equipped.

    Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin wrote of his concern that the CH-47D Chinook helicopter "may not have had necessary or fully complete aircraft survivability equipment," including seat armor to protect against shrapnel.

    Army Col. William Darley, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said in an e-mail exchange from Baghdad on Wednesday that the helicopter had an ALQ-156 defensive system, including a flare dispenser, that is standard equipment on all Chinooks, whether active duty or National Guard.

    The helicopter was carrying troops to Baghdad. Fifteen soldiers were killed, including the pilot, 1st Lt. Brian D. Slavenas, of Genoa, Ill., who was deployed to Iraq from the Guard's 106th Aviation Battalion, based at Peoria.

    Darley said a second Chinook flying nearby also had the ALQ-156 system.

    There was no official word Wednesday on whether the helicopters had seat armor.

    Pentagon officials said that as far as could be determined, all transport helicopters in Iraq have the standard package of defensive systems. That equipment is not foolproof, however, especially in cases where the helicopter is flying at very low altitudes, allowing little reaction time.

    Durbin said military sources familiar with the situation in Iraq told him that some crews of Illinois and Iowa National Guard helicopters had been flying without complete anti-missile systems for almost six months.

    "It's been a struggle for them to get the most basic equipment that they need to protect themselves," Durbin told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. "The crews and pilots have tried their best to try to secure this equipment from any source imaginable. That to me is unacceptable."

    Defense Department officials said Wednesday that the equipment installed on the Chinooks has two parts - the first is the AlQ-156, the electronic part that plots the flight of the attack weapon and determines when to try to counter it. The second part is a dispenser that emits hot flares, designed to draw heat-seeking weapons away from the aircraft, and chaff, aluminum designed to try to jam enemy radar.

    Durbin also asked Rumsfeld to investigate whether all National Guard and Reserve helicopters operating in Iraq are being adequately equipped to protect the crews and passengers against missile and other threats.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."