The official Sebastian Junger community
I came to the website after I watched your interview with Piers Morgan regarding the war in Afghanistan. I liked the observations you made regarding the current situation but regarding shooting down the Chinook I had to totally disagree with you. Its very easy to damage a Chinook. Of course at altitude a Chinook would be practically impervious to small arms but a Chinook on infil/exfil getting in and out is a very vulnerable target. Anyone that would say as Piers Morgan suggested that shooting a Chinook would be 'implausible' haven't spent much time on the ground in Afghanistan. Chinooks are the 'yellow cabs' work horses of Afghanistan.
The weapons available heavy machine guns ie PMKs, DSHks and RPGs are all capable of doing the job.
Combine the right weapons and the hilly mountainous, terrain of Afghanistan where anyone can easily take the high ground an you see the inherent dangers of flying in this country.
Hi there, thanks for your input. The reality is that Chinooks are rarely lost in Afghanistan; simply hitting one in the fuselage with an RPG will not bring it down. As was explained to me, the RPG has to hit very specific areas to overcome all the redundancy in the design and bring it down. Furthermore, RPGs have extremely limited range, and when Chinooks they come in to land or take off, two Apaches are always circling overhear with all kinds of optics looking for any movement at all. Heat-seeking missiles, on the other hand, can rise to 10,000 feet or so and can hit aircraft from a very wide area - far too wide for Apache escorts to successfully monitor.
Thank you for watching the interview, though. I'm glad you agreed with the other parts.
In the Battle of Mogadishu, during the operation, two U.S. blackhawks helicopters were shot down by RPGs and three others were damaged. The 'technology' or tactics behind that hasnt changed a whole lot.
While a heat seeking missle would be the Cadillac of anti-aircraft its not as plausible as say a DShk, RPG, or a PKM which is alot more probable, affordable, available. Oh I totally agree that an Apache does wonders in wide open areas, but the biggest safety net for a Chinnook or any helo landing or taking off is the guys on the ground once its on an approach. There's no gaurantees, youre most vulnerable its a big window of opportunity. Well I should explain my experience, my background Im currently deployed, living in a very mountainous area of Afghanistan in an area with scattered villages. Its not uncommon conditions for alot of folks currently deployed. These might be isolated pockets, but still very populated areas.
With the current emphasis on Village Stability Operations. This the biggest push I think in the country, its where the fight is happening. We have servicemembers, SOF embedded with the population, living in villages. The majority of these places can only be reached by helicopter.
Foreign fighters/Taliban can blend with the local population with little difficulty. With the possibilty of civilian casualties it negates the usefulness of Apaches. When helicopters approach villages its a bit of an airshow to the local population. Children playing in fields, herders, people up on rooftops coming to see whats happening. I guess Im trying to paint the picture here. I would not be surprised to hear about these type of attacks becoming more common.
Hi there, sorry about the delayed response - I didnt have access to the internet. We've been in the same areas of Afghanistan and so are referring to similar tactical realities. When I was there the Taliban shot at the birds all the time with everything they had - Diska, PKM, mortars, etc. Occasionally they'd hit them but they never brought one down. However in the Spring of '08 alone, something like 5 helicopters crashed in Afghanistan, and all were pilot error or mechanical failure. In the past ten years of war in Afghanistan, Chinooks have been brought down by enemy fire only five or six times, I believe (I am going by memory here.) I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts on why pilot error, mechanical failure and bad weather seem to be a far greater threat to aircraft than the enemy (thank God.) Best of luck out there, I hope you come home soon and in good health...
On y way back transiting through Kuwait a 60 pilot overheard my conversation with a colleague who was out at another site. The pilots head whipped around when he heard mention of where I was heading. He had flown out that way. We had helos, go down within a very short period of time in our neck of the woods. That kind of news would travel fast in the pilot circles. The pilot was travelling with one of the Ranger’ types that helped secure one of the crash sites. So the four of us huddled around and talked shop.
I mentioned how a lot of flights get cancelled out to where we are. He mentioned how it’s a stretch to get air out to some locations. The elements around here are horrible on helicopters. The heat, high elevation and the landscape make flying a challenge. They also have to factor in the load, cargo weight. He left me with the impression; it takes a lot of pilots out of their comfort zone.
I think any pilot who says he spent his deployment flying around Afghanistan leaves a better pilot for doing it. I can imagine the pilots that flew in Vietnam for the first time and what they experienced. This is all anecdotal but I bet we had a lot more resources in Vietnam, more helicopters to put into the rotation. That could be a big contributing factor. For every hour an aircraft is flying there are so many hours it needs on the ground getting refit. I can only speak from my experiences as a passenger in the back though.