April hail storm damaged 80 NATO helicopters in Afghanistan

June 30, 2013 at 1:23 AM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 30 (UPI) -- A freak hailstorm in Afghanistan damaged even more NATO helicopters than originally reported when the storm hit in April, military officials say.

After the April 23 storm struck the air base at Kandahar, officials had said about 50 helicopters had been damaged by golf ball-size hailstones. But a British newspaper, The Guardian, reported Thursday it now turns out more than 80 aircraft were affected, with some kept out of action for more than three weeks.

The half-hour storm was so violent, the hail broke rotor blades, cracked windows and ripped the helicopters' metal skin, the newspaper said, adding a local military blogger reported three Afghans died.

"The sheer number of airframe repairs required after the hailstorm provided five years' worth of experience for the airframe mechanics," Regional Command South, the coalition headquarters based in Kandahar, said in a release.

Despite the extent of the damage, troops on the ground were not affected, the statement said.

"The enemy had no opportunity to take advantage of the impact on our aircraft," Col. Allan Pepin, commander of the unit whose helicopters were hit, said.

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