WASHINGTON – Army pilots for the first time used an Apache attack helicopter to strike Islamist militant targets in Iraq over the weekend, according to a statement by CENTCOM.
On Oct. 4, "U.S. military forces used attack bomber, fighter and helicopter aircraft to conduct six airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq" the command said in a Sunday morning release, and a CENTCOM official confirmed to Defense News that the helicopter was an Army Apache attack helicopter, but would not specify where it flew from or what munitions it used.
Apaches can fire Hellfire missiles from a significant standoff distance, and are capable of "teaming" with manned and unmanned aircraft to share information, and designate targets.
On July 1, the Pentagon announced that it was sending an unspecified number of Apaches to Baghdad to help protect embassy personnel in an increasingly uncertain situation as Islamist extremists allied with Sunni tribes continued to take swaths of territory in the north and west of the country. The U.S. military also sent a number of RQ-7 Shadow drones to Baghdad at the same time.
The Saturday strikes near Fallujah struck two mortar teams and what CENTCOM characterized as "a large ISIL unit and two small ISIL units."
There are currently about 1,200 U.S. military personnel in Iraq under the war powers resolution Pentagon officials said recently, a number that should climb to about 1,600 in the coming weeks.
Among the new arrivals will be 216 soldiers in a U.S. Army headquarters element from the 1st Infantry Division, who will begin deploying later this month.
While the U.S. government won't put a dollar figure on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, independent estimates say that the cost is approaching $1 billion since June.