Pentagon Questioning Use of Lumbering Chinook Helos in Battle Zone Landings

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The Pentagon is taking another look at the use of lumbering CH-47 Chinook helicopters in active battle zones after 30 U.S. lives were lost when one was shot down Aug. 6 in the deadliest incident of the Afghan War, according to this article on the military.com website.

The aircraft was the second tandem-rotor Chinook brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade in the war-torn country in the past two weeks. The helo was hit as it was descending with Navy Seals and Afghan commandos seeking to join a firefight between Army Rangers and Taliban insurgents a mile away from the undefended landing zone.

The RPG hit the Chinnok dead center and the aircraft broke in half, according to defense officials. The incident occurred in the Tangi Valley, about 60 miles southwest of the Afghan city capital of Kabul.

The dead include five U.S. air crew, 25 U.S. special operations warriors, seven Afghan commandos and an Afghan interpreter. The Special Ops contingent was drawn from the same unit that killed Al Quaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in May.

Two U.S. service-members were injured in a similar incident July 25 when the Taliban shot down a Chinook in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province with an RPG. Defense officials said that helo was reportedly hit in the bottom and forced to make a hard landing.

The question facing commanders is whether it makes sense to use the Chinook in active battle zones, when they have a plethora of more advanced helicopters for that duty, such as the Blackhawk. The first Chinook flew in 1962 and although the aircraft has been upgraded many times, it’s still the last helicopter from the Vietnam era still is  use.

The CH-47 is essentially a truck in the sky, with a large payload but slow speed. That large payload makes it attractive to commanders seeking to land a large unit simultaneously.

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