WASHINGTON – A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter was shot down south of Baghdad Wednesday, military officials said. There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties.
Pentagon officials said seven soldiers aboard the helicopter were killed and four were wounded and rescued. U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar released a statement saying six were believed to have been aboard and “casualties have not been confirmed at this point.”
The helicopter was downed by small-arms fire near Karbala, Pentagon officials said. The Euphrates River city was the site of fierce fighting between the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and Iraqi troops, including Republican Guard forces.
The Black Hawk was the second U.S. helicopter to go down in combat. An Army Apache assault helicopter went down March 24 during an assault on Republican Guard forces; its two pilots were captured by Iraqis.
The UH-60 Black Hawk is one of the Army’s main utility and troop transport helicopters. Each is flown by a crew of four and can carry up to 11 soldiers.
The helicopters are equipped with advanced avionics and electronics, such as global positioning systems and night-vision equipment.
A Black Hawk crashed in a remote, wooded area of Fort Drum, N.Y., during a training exercise last month, killing 11 of the 13 soldiers aboard.
In February, a Black Hawk crashed during night training in the Kuwaiti desert, killing all four crew members. The Kuwaiti military said sandstorms were reported in the area at the time the chopper went down.
In January, an MH-60, an adapted version of the Black Hawk, crashed during training near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, killing four members of an elite aviation regiment.