American helicopters engaged Islamic State group fighters in Iraq on Friday, according to CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. The deployment of helicopter gunships comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a request to Congress for authorization to wage war against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
Helicopter gunships engaged fighters in al-Baghdadi, an area almost completely controlled by ISIS. The U.S. has led a coalition of Western and Arab nations to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq since June 2014 and in Syria since September 2014 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Those airstrikes have consisted of long-range bombing and missile strikes from fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopter operations would require pilots to fly much closer to the combat area.
â€” Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 14, 2015
Apache helicopters do not carry troops. Apache’s are highly maneuverable gunships equipped with numerous heavy weapons, including 30 mm machine guns, Hellfire air-to-surface anti-armor missiles and in some cases Hydra 70 rockets. The helicopters saw action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and the Persian Gulf.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus criticized Obama’s authorization request to ramp up operations against the Islamic State group on Friday, according to Talking Points Memo. The 70-member caucus called it “too broad” and warned that broad authorizations can lead to “devastating and costly wars” like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama asked for authorization to use the military “as [he] determines to be necessary and appropriate against [the Islamic State group] or associated persons or forces,” but added in his request that it does not authorize the use of the U.S. military “in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”