Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Sunday, 30 August 2009 16:41 UK

UK Chinook damaged in Afghanistan

Chinooks form the backbone of the UK's helicopter fleet in Afghanistan

A British Chinook helicopter has been deliberately destroyed after being badly damaged in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The aircraft suffered what officials have called a "hard landing", while on operations near Sangin, Helmand province, on Sunday morning.

The Chinook suffered damage to the undercarriage, nose and front rotor, the MoD added.

The four crew and 15 soldiers from the 2 Rifles battlegroup were unharmed.

The Chinook had been carrying the troops to a site six miles (10km) east of Sangin at 0530 on Sunday.

Despite the damage to the helicopter, the soldiers carried on with their operation, while the crew were brought back by another Chinook involved in the mission.

The MoD said that because of where the Chinook had come down, and the environment it was in, it was not possible to safely recover the aircraft.

Military personnel with explosives deliberately destroyed the helicopter. The cause of the hard landing is under investigation, although it is not thought to have been caused by enemy fire.

The latest loss of an RAF Chinook follows the deliberate destruction of another in Afghanistan earlier this month. That aircraft suffered an engine fire, forcing its crew to make an emergency landing.

Questions have been raised about the number and availability of UK military helicopters deployed in Afghanistan - with some commentators blaming the government for not providing enough.

It has also been argued that the UK could reduce its casualty rate if more soldiers were ferried to operations by air, rather than riskier land routes.

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