.....Through my humble military knowledge, the participating force is way larger than the size of the assaulted targets. All we heard from US or Iraqi officials about accomplished objectives was the capture of 50 or 60 suspects (no big names or top ranking al-Qaeda leaders), IED making materials, several missiles and 70 lbs of TNT, i.e. almost the everyday finding of weapon caches. Let alone that we didn't see any footage of the reportedly confiscated weapon caches.
(Numbers from a statement for the spokesman of Iraqi defense ministry)
I tend to believe that the primary objective of the operation is to polish the skills of future battalion-size airborne Iraqi units through real-time action against real targets and to move Iraqi forces to the stage where they can take the initiative instead of waiting for the enemy to make the first move.
As the maps show, the area where the operation is taking place is surrounded by a number of medium and large sized US and Iraqi bases and using helicopters in such great numbers is more expensive, complicated and has little advantage over ground transport of troops and you don't really need helicopters to gain the surprise factor when approaching the open plains, semi-desert area takes slightly more than an hour in vehicles from the nearest bases.
But I think Iraqi forces can benefit greatly from this kind of experience given the relatively small number of these troops compared to the area they need to cover which makes air deployment of troops vital for having quick response abilities especially when Iraqi troops are planned to become responsible for security in a growing amount of territory over time.
I also suspect there are other two possible dimensions for the operation; one deals with morale and the other is a long-term military plan to cut the lines of transportation between the eastern and western areas of action of the insurgency that pass through the rural areas near and around Samarra.....
All Omar's reasoning makes sense to me, also amateur analyst.
Practically speaking, this is one way to assault a city, with helicopters. Driving in is another. Given Iraqi-U.S. casualties (0), Swarmer sounds like a winner. It makes sense to launch airborne assaults with overwhelming force (Operation "Swarmer"). They could combine air and land. Helicopters are excellent gun platforms as well.
Commanders need to mix up tactics in order to keep the enemy guessing.
If intelligence is sketchy I'd rather be the commander who went in with overwhelming force and nobody died.