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"Little is known about the missile, or others that might have been involved. A partially blacked-out video of the incident suggests the missile was
not the standard man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS). From what can be gleaned from the video, the weapon appears too short to conceal the long
cylindrical tube of any modern MANPADS, though it could have hidden any number of anti-tank guided missiles. The point in flight at which the Apache
was brought down, however, suggests a heat-seeking weapon was used.
Although Saddam Hussein's Iraq was awash in 1960s Soviet-era SA-7 Grail MANPADS, those missiles likely would have been used up by now. If these
latest attacks do involve a MANPADS, it probably was smuggled in from a neighboring country. Pakistan manufactures the Anza, its version of the
Chinese copy of the SA-7. The use of newer MANPADS also is possible, including the modern SA-18 Grouse -- available from the Russian arms exporter
Rosoboronexport. A combination of SA-18s, -16s and -14s would be available from Jordan, Iran or Syria, although the latter two doubtfully would be
supplying Sunni insurgents, which have taken credit for the attacks thus far. Ironically, along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran also has the U.S.
Given the dramatic increase in successful downings, either the militants have identified a weakness in U.S. tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP)
or they have acquired a new tool. This last scenario seems the likeliest, since four years is more than enough time to have picked apart U.S. standard
operating procedures. What is clear is that a new offensive aimed at hindering U.S. helicopter mobility is under way.
Although the U.S. military has indicated that the Feb. 7 incident did not involve hostile fire, an al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group promised to
release a video to prove its claim that an attack did take place. This is not an empty claim, given that insurgents have recorded several of the
incidents, not only for public relations purposes but also to examine U.S. standard operating procedures and immediate action practices.
The latest crash raises flags, however, because ostensibly the TTP already had been adjusted to deal with this new threat -- which the U.S. military
has a much more solid handle on than it is willing to admit. Whether it will be able to effectively counter the threat, however, is the question. The
insurgency does not yet have anywhere near the capacity to completely block helicopter movement, though it can impose increasing costs on the
helicopters. That friction, if sustained, could have a substantial impact on U.S. operations.
The United States will continue to use helicopters regardless of these attacks, since they are essential to the continued conduct of operations in
Iraq. Moreover, they will continue to be safer and faster than ground transportation. Should this offensive against U.S. helicopters continue, the
United States will further alter its TTP. Insurgents will then counter with changes in their own TTP, much like the back-and-forth over improvised
explosive devices in the last several years. Whenever the United States finds an effective defense, the insurgents will find a new weakness."
[edit on 13-2-2007 by Mindzi]