Iraq insurgents have anti-helicopter missiles

The Herald
Iranian missiles blamed for coalition helicopter strikes
IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent
March 14 2007

A BRITISH Lynx helicopter downed in Basra last summer, killing five, and a US Marines' Sea Knight targeted north of Baghdad last month causing seven deaths were both hit by advanced shoulder-fired missiles supplied by Iran.

A UK Board of Inquiry is to report next month on the Basra crash, in which Flight Lieutenant Sarah Mulvihil and four others died.

If the inquiry finds she was killed by hostile fire, she will become the first British servicewoman killed in action in Iraq, and the first UK female officer killed in any conflict since the Second World War.

US and British sources told The Herald yesterday that evidence had been gathered linking the wreckage of the two helicopters to hits by SA-14 "Gremlin" or SA-16 "Gimlet" missiles designed to home in on engine heat.

The Russian weapons, in service with neighbouring Iran's regular forces and its Pasdaran Revolutionary Guard, are fitted with features allowing them to bypass decoy flares and some types of electronic jamming to home in on their targets.

Both missiles were made to counter the threat of low-flying helicopters and are fitted with sensors that enable the firer to launch at the aircraft's engines even if he does not have them in line of sight.

The UK MoD refused to comment in advance of the army's board of inquiry publishing its findings, due to go first to the chiefs of the defence staff in the next few weeks.

The Basra attack also killed Wing Commander John Coxon, the most senior British officer to die in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Troops later found missile parts and other signs in a nearby building pointing to an Iranian weapon.