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U.S. Helicopter Downed in Rocket-Propelled Grenade Attack

U.S. Helicopter Downed in Rocket-Propelled Grenade Attack

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Guerrillas hit a U.S. helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade Tuesday near Fallujah, witnesses said. The American military said the aircraft made a "controlled landing."

A military spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said the OH-58D Kiowa observation helicopter from the 82nd Airborne Division made a "controlled landing" at 2:30 p.m.

There were two crewmen on board and neither was injured, the spokesman said, adding that a quick-reaction force had secured the area.

An Associated Press reporter saw two helicopters flying in formation near the city, about 30 miles west of the capital, when one was hit by a grenade fired from the ground.

It went down immediately in an open field. The aircraft appeared structurally intact, but smoke was billowing from it. Two other helicopters with red crosses painted on the sides landed nearby a few minutes later, the reporter said.

In videotape shot shortly after the downing, an A-10 Thunderbolt II was seen flying above. Several other Kiowas also circled the area, and a convoy of military vehicles drove toward the downed helicopter.

Fallujah, a hotbed of resistance to the U.S. occupation, sits in the heart of the dangerous Sunni Triangle where the majority of attacks on American forces have occurred since the ouster of former leader Saddam Hussein.

In past weeks there have been two other deadly attacks on U.S. helicopters.

On Nov. 2, 16 soldiers died when insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter near Fallujah. In the deadliest single incident so far for U.S. soldiers, two Black Hawk helicopters collided and crashed in the northern city of Mosul on Nov. 17, killing 17 soldiers. U.S. commanders said the crash was caused by ground fire.

After the downing of those aircraft, the U.S. military introduced new tactics for its helicopters. These include flying at lower altitude, thus cutting down the time available to enemy gunners to take aim.

The Kiowa, a small observation and reconnaissance helicopter commonly seen in the skies over Iraq's cities, carries one pilot and as many as four passengers.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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