WASHINGTON – The Army has lost 130 helicopters in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about a third to shoot-downs, its aviation director said Friday. He complained that industry is not replacing them fast enough.
"While the military may be on a war footing, our nation's industry is not on a war footing," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt.
He said it takes 24 months to get replacement aircraft built and delivered and that replacements for the early losses are just now arriving.
"The U.S. is not at war, the military is at war," he told a group of Pentagon reporters, also complaining about the timing of how money flows from the government to pay for the purchases. "Industry, you have got to get to the point of where you're producing ... faster."
Mundt did not have a further breakdown of the losses of aircraft except to say that in addition to shoot-downs, helicopters fall prey to dirt, dust and the rough terrain and conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The number of helicopter downings has dropped dramatically since a spate in Iraq in January and February, Mundt said.
There were at least eight incidents over a few weeks in which U.S. military and civilian helicopters were either shot down or landed under fire in Iraq.
Officials say militants are increasingly targeting choppers with an assortment of weapons, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Asked if missiles were involved in any of the downings, he said officials would rather not reveal that.
"The answer is there is a multitude of weapons out there," Mundt said.
In response to the increased targeting of the aircraft, the military has been changing its procedures on when, where and how it flies.