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Special Forces Helicopter Seen As Workhorse

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The helicopter that was reported shot down over the weekend in Afghanistan is a newer version of the Army's Chinook, which has been used for many years. The MH-47, made by Boeing, is equipped to haul heavy loads and do it at night.

It was designed for special operations to fly long distances and carry troops or cargo. It carries a crew of two plus Loadmaster and up to 33 troops. In some circumstances, the helicopter can carry more troops.

The special helicopter is equipped to fly at night and in bad weather. It carries 13 tons at up to 200 miles an hour. A probe allows the MH-47 to be refueled in the air, and it has twin engines.

Former Special Forces soldier Captain Craig Marks has flown in the MH-47. He said it can be a "wild ride."

"You're not really sure where you're at or what's going on because the windows are higher than where you're sitting on the floor," he said.

MH-47s were used over the weekend to ferry supplies to coalition troops in the hills near Shan-e-Kot. They are usually used to carry Special Forces "A" teams, but they do double duty.

"They can sling load a large amount of ammunition, food, weapons, vehicles, anything," said Marks. "They can get in there fast, cut them loose and get away."

Helicopters are easy targets for small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and Stinger missiles. Marks said it does not take much to bring down a chopper.

"If you merely get the engine to cut loose or the transmission to go, then you'll have a catastrophic failure that you probably can't control the landing," he said.

There are about two dozen MH-47s in operation, all part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.


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