The Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have always possessed a method of shooting down United States lead Coalition helicopters, yet there is a concern that these fighters now have access to a more sophisticated weapon. Undoubtedly, the crew of the downed CH-47 Chinook helicopter never saw the rocket speeding towards their vertical lift, as the Army refers to the helicopters, in general.
The rocket slammed into the Chinook around 3:00 am on Saturday August 6, 2011, sending the chopper to the ground and ending in fiery tragedy.
The sorrowful loss of life stands at 38 individuals and one specially trained canine. The death toll includes Army crew members, nineteen U.S. Navy SEALs, 3 US Naval support troops, 1 Afghan interpreter, 7 Afghan commandos, 3 Air Force controllers, and the military canine listed above.
President Barack Obama made a comment on the tragedy and the loss of the valiant United States military personnel saying, “Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families.”
The explosion and fiery crash, in the Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan was the bloodiest single incident of the 10-year-old Afghanistan war for the US forces. While the insurgents have brought down some Chinooks and other vertical lift flying units with little more than crude, antiquidated, RPG pieces of hardware, this crash had something different.
The question is being raised on whether or not the insurgency possesses a new rocket system that is more accurate and carries a larger payload than a regular rocket propelled grenade launcher. This would poise a severe threat to the helicopter-reliant US and coalition forces stationed in the rugged terrain and country that is Afghanistan.
If the Taliban possesses a more sophisticated chopper-killing weapon it would mean that more of these copper tragedies will be forthcoming. The terrain of the country is such that it is impossible to move large numbers of troops and other military units, as well as something as simple as transporting a cargo of medical supplies, from one location to another without the sturdy but vulnerable CH-47 Chinooks.
The suspected weapon that brought down the helicopter is a variation of the IRAM. “Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortar” is a special variation of the traditional and still widely used Taliban rocket-propelled grenade or RPG. The suspicion around the US military leaders in Afghanistan is that the Taliban insurgents have this IRAM, and more importantly, have the methods needed for mass-producing these deadly chopper-killers.
The use of IRAMs first reared its ugly head in Iraq in 2008, although not against air targets. IRAMs have been attributed to the deaths of 6 Americans in Iraq but have not been seen in Afghanistan fighting until this tragic Chinook crash.
More information on weapons technology and rockets can be found on the Wired.com website.