U.S. Army Apache Gunships Are Back in Baghdad
Attack copters join drones in protecting American personnel
Drones and Apache gunship helicopters will join other American forces in Baghdad, the Pentagon has announced. The Army attack helicopters are among the latest additions to the rapidly expanding Joint Forces Land Component Command, Iraq—a.k.a., JFLCC-I.
Washington began sending troops back to Iraq in the middle of June as Baghdad struggled to contain the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known as ISIS. The Sunni extremist group is now effectively in control of significant portions of the country.
We don’t know how many of these armed helicopters are going to Iraq or what units they belong to. However, the ground combat branch regularly rotates gunships in and out of Kuwait as part of the regional counter-terrorism mission Operation Spartan Shield.
We also don’t know how many unmanned aircraft will be keeping watch over Baghdad or what type they will be. But we can rule out the U.S. Air Force’s Predators and Reapers, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
In that case, the Army’s RQ-7 Shadow might be a good guess. Army units in Kuwait for Spartan Shield probably already possess these smaller pilotless planes—like the one landing at Kuwait’s Camp Buehring in the picture above.
All of the new aircraft will fly from Baghdad International Airport. The Apaches and drones will protect American advisers and diplomats as they go about their appointed rounds amid Iraq’s deepening instability.
JFLCC-I’s primary mission is advising and assisting Iraqi security forces in their fight against the radical Sunni insurgents. Washington has authorized the deployment of up to 770 troops to Iraq for this mission. More than 600 of them are there already.
This is in addition to approximately 100 military personnel who were working at the American embassy before the current crisis.
The embassy is just one of the locations the drones and gunships are slated to defend. The Pentagon’s advisers have also established a joint operations center—or JOC—in Baghdad.
This shared headquarters could distribute intelligence to Iraqi commanders and coordinate the transfer of military aid. The drones and copters could shadow personnel traveling to and from this hub.
A second JOC is in the works … and the Pentagon may need still more troops to staff it. This additional command hub would likely be in Iraq’s north, where the Kurds are fighting their own battles against ISIS.
Washington retains the option of an even more significant response, if JFLCC-I’s creation is any indication. The ground branch defines the unit as a division-size task force with a staff to match.
The Pentagon already has a two-star general—Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, an Iraq veteran—on the ground and in the lead. A JFLCC could conceivably oversee more than 10,000 troops, should American send them.