Chinook destroyed after Afghan attack

Author: By Terri Judd

With the engine in flames, the pilots made an emergency landing and got all
four crew out safely. They had been flying north of Sangin just before
midnight on Wednesday when the machine developed problems mid-air. A
Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ?The crew were immediately extracted by
another Chinook. The helicopter was later destroyed by a coalition air
strike to deny it from enemy forces.? He added that a full investigation
would be carried out.

Sources, however, said early indications suggested the Chinook was taken down
by enemy action at a time of increased, pre-election, Taliban threats. The
team were understood to be on a special forces? flight unrelated to today?s
voting.

The helicopters are vital resources in Helmand, extracting wounded soldiers
from battle and ferrying troops. There have long been fears that one of the
helicopters ? which can carry up to 40 heavily-laden soldiers and four crew
? could fall prey to Taliban attack.

While many British Chinooks have been hit by enemy fire, this is the first
time one has had to be destroyed after a suspected attack. today an RAF
spokesman said the Chinook would be replaced by a similar aircraft which had
just arrived in Afghanistan as part of a normal maintenance rotation.

The loss of a vital Chinook ? one of only a maximum of 10 in Afghanistan ?
will be a bitter blow to a force already overstretched and undoubtedly
reignite the row over a lack of helicopters.

News of the incident came today as the MoD denied it has lost £6.6bn of
equipment highlighted in a damning National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The auditors refused to sign off a report on the MoD, saying they had been
unable to verify the existence of vehicles, weapons, body armour and radio
gear.

An MoD spokesman insisted: ?£6.6bn worth of MoD assets was never physically
lost. Rather, at the time of the report, Defence Storage and Distribution
Authority were unable to satisfy the NAO?s demand for paperwork from
stockchecking and this figure is an extrapolation of the lack of evidence.?

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