Chinook destroyed after Afghan attack

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The Independent Online

A British Chinook on a Special Forces mission in Afghanistan had to be destroyed today after it was brought down in an enemy attack.

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.”