In a continuing battle between a key lawmaker and the U.S. Army over whether to use armed or unarmed medical evacuation helicopters in combat zones, the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted May 9 to require detailed comparisons of survival rates, speed, and costs of the two methods. A Defense Department report and Government Accountability Office review would come in time for consideration as part of the 2014 defense budget.
Rep. Todd Akin sponsored the legislation, which also calls for an analysis of the practical and legal implications of how Geneva Convention protocols for transporting the sick and wounded apply in current combat environments where insurgents and criminal organizations are not deterred from firing on unarmed aircraft and vehicles.
Akin’s interest comes following questions regarding the Sept. 18 death of a U.S. Army specialist in Afghanistan. The soldier had been severely injured by an improvised bomb, and died when an unarmed Army medevac helicopter was delayed in transporting him while awaiting armed escorts.
Army officials defended their policy, saying there were several reasons not to arm medical transportation helicopters, including the added weight and space required for weapons that would cut down on room for the injured, and the potential loss of protected status under the Geneva Convention.
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