The aircrew of a C-130 transporting US Congressmen from Baghdad Airport last week saw surface to air fire as the transport aircraft left the runway and immediately began a series of standard tactics. They dispensed countermeasure flares and flew “standard evasive maneuvers,” according to a US Central Command statement. The aircraft safely completed its flight. Congressional Quarterly reports that Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Rep. Bud Cramer (R-Ala.) were on the flight. “I saw the red glare of a shell or a missile coming up toward our plane,” Shelby said. “Then I saw a flare pop out and our plane just started moving and changing directions.” He praised the crew, saying “We owe them.” It is not unusual for transport aircraft operating in the Southwest Asia area of operations to come under attack; in 2006, Air Mobility Command recorded 215 such events.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.