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Iraq Journals

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Saturday, April 5

Enemy fire probably not cause of Cobra helicopter crash

By Gordon Lubold | Marine Corps Times

AT AN AIRBASE NEAR IRAQ - Two Marine pilots were killed Saturday when their attack helicopter crashed during a combat mission in south central Iraq, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The names of the two pilots have not been released pending notification of relatives. The AH-IW Super Cobra was flying an attack mission in the vicinity of Aziziyah, about 30 miles southeast of Baghdad, but preliminary information shows enemy fire did not cause the crash, according to the Marine wing based at an airbase near Iraq.

The Cobra gunships have been at an expeditionary airfield in southern Iraq, flying combat missions close to Baghdad and monitoring supply lines convoys are using to resupply troops to the north. Three Cobra squadrons are working in the theater, both from the East and West coasts, including the Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269, based at New River Air Station, N.C.

The Cobras have been active in the conflict with Iraq, flying low and hitting small and large targets. Like any helicopter, they are vulnerable to attack. In the first several days of fighting, several Cobra pilots reported taking anti-aircraft artillery rounds and other fire.

The Cobras may play a significant role if the fight goes street by street in Baghdad.

"We are the best suited, but at the same time we can be very vulnerable," said one squadron pilot. The Cobra is a twin-seat, twin-engine attack helicopter that typically provides escort capabilities for assault helicopters and the Marine forces they carry. Cobras carry TOW missiles, Hellfire laser missiles, 20 mm guns and rocket pods as well as a Flechette warhead. They have a range of about 300 miles and can fly as fast as 170 mph.