US Apache helicopters flying in Mosul offensive

US Apache helicopters flying in Mosul offensive
© Getty Images

The U.S. military is flying Apache helicopter gunships in support of Iraqi forces in the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, exposing U.S. forces to greater risk. 

The Army helicopters are currently flying in support of Iraqi night operations as they retake villages from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on the march to Mosul, according to Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Apaches fly in pairs and lower to the ground than other U.S. strike aircraft. Each is armed with a 30-millimeter cannon, 2.75-inch rockets and can carry a payload of Hellfire missiles — ideal for providing close air support for troops on the ground. 

"We get into occasions where we expect enemy activity to be, and that's what we call [the] named area of interest ... and that's what we focus them on," Volesky said. 

"It's also a confidence-building measure as they hear those Apaches in the general area. And so that's really how we're using them," he told reporters during a briefing.

Volesky left it open as to whether the Apaches would fly over Mosul itself when Iraqi forces push into the city. ISIS fighters are expected to fall back from the outskirts and consolidate in the Iraqi city's urban core, where officials predict fighting will get ugly. 

"We'll use every capability to enable the Iraqis' fight in Mosul. Where the Apaches go, we'll make sure that we mitigate the risk, like we are now," he said. 

"I'm not going to tell how we're going to employ the Apaches. What I will say is that we'll look for opportunities to utilize all the capabilities to enable the Iraqis to go faster and more efficiently in Mosul," he added.