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Helicopter versus RPG

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If the area has moon dust (not much in this area), the shooter will be enveloped in a giant cloud, which can go poorly for him.

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The maximum range of the RPG is about a thousand yards, but it is not very accurate beyond 300 yards.   In Afghanistan, the enemy often lobs them onto bases blindly hoping to get lucky.

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The Taliban often shoot at low-flying helicopters.  A Vietnam-era pilot wrote a story about getting hit in the windshield.   The RPG did not explode, so it was stuck right there as they flew in that vibrating helicopter back to base.  Sometimes troops get hit and they end up with an unexploded rocket embedded in their body.  This makes it tricky for MEDEVAC and for the doctors, and for EOD who might have to remove it.

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On 12 January this year, Marine Corporal Winder Perez got hit with an RPG rocket that failed to explode.  A medical team from the New Mexico National Guard landed to pick him up.  RPG rounds, after being fired, can be touchy.  Corporal Perez was alive with a live rocket in his left thigh and abdomen.  But that did not stop the New Mexico National Guard crew.  They took Corporal Perez and flew him back to base, landing gently.  They warned everyone to stay away from the aircraft.  An Army explosives expert, Staff Sergeant Ben Summerfield, along with a Navy surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, made an outdoor operating area and wearing body armor, they removed the rocket.  Corporal Perez survived.  There are many such RPG stories.

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There are two charges on this round; the first charge gets it out of the tube.  The second charge is behind the rocket.  In this image, the rocket is just kicking in.

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The rocket is ignited.  Though it appears smoky, the warhead does not leave any noticeable smoke trail.  (Maybe in Rambo movies.)  If you see a smoke trail, that is more likely to be a surface-to-air missile.

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Some rounds fly for 4-5 seconds, and then a self-destruct mechanism causes them to explode.  Others you find lying around.  Do not touch.

Often our helicopter crews will not see the firing point.  But if they see the RPG self-destruct in the air, they see a donut shape with a smoke stick going through the donut.  The donut-shaped smoke is caused by the self-destruct, and the “stick” is caused by the rocket motor flying through the smoke and dragging smoke with it.  The stick points back to the approximate firing location, and if the gunner fired on a Kiowa Warrior team, it is about to get interesting for him.

The Kiowa Warriors can be aggressive.  Taliban hate them but our infantry have huge respect for the KW teams.  Some of the pilots are women.  After they get shot at, KWs almost certainly are going to attack (attack seems to be an automatic reflex with them), but it has to be remembered that there might be other RPGs or machine guns down there.  When you see KWs get into a gunfight, you will not forget it.  The KWs often close in tight within easy rifle and RPG range.  Often the co-pilot is hanging out the door with a little M-4 rifle shooting tracers.  They get hit all the time.

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The tube is now hot and can be seen with thermals.  It will remain hot to the touch for about a minute, and during this shot it kept smoking for about 30 seconds.

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