U.S. Army Apache helicopters providing close air support to Iraqi forces are making a real impact in the Mosul offensive, the Pentagon said Monday.
"I can confirm that Apaches have been used with significant effect," said Defense Department press secretary Peter Cook. "We anticipate that this nimble and precise capability will continue to enable Iraqi progress in what we expect will be tough fighting to come."
Cook said the Apaches have targeted car bombs and other obstacles and impediments ISIS has tried to use against the advancing Iraqi forces.
He did not specify how close the helicopters are getting to the fighting in Mosul or whether the Apaches were flying over the city, where they could be at greater risk from forces on the ground, some equipped with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
A defense official said the Apaches were being used since they could be employed more quickly, and get closer to targets on the ground, than other air assets. The Apaches are equipped with M230 Chain Guns, and can fire Hellfire missiles and rockets.
While the offensive began on Oct. 17, Iraqi special forces only penetrated into the city's boundaries last week, and have so far faced heavy resistance.
Cook said the Apaches could be used from a "standoff position" to "provide a kind of close air support" away from the front lines in Mosul.
"This is a capability that is quite powerful, quite lethal, and can operate from a standoff position, can provide a kind of close air support that I understand it from troops who have benefitted from having Apaches in the fight, a psychological advantage in terms of just physical support in their advance," he said.
Apaches were first used earlier this year, in June, to target ISIS forces south of Mosul. They have also been used at the beginning of the Mosul offensive in October, but Iraqi forces were still far from the front lines at that point.
As far as U.S. ground forces who are embedded with Iraqi forces, Cook said there are no troops inside Mosul yet.
"We do not have forces inside city limits at this particular moment in time," he said.
-- Updated Nov. 8 at 10:55 a.m.