How US Particular-Ops Aviators Put together for Helicopter Crashes on Missions

  • An MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down throughout a special-operations raid in Syria this month.
  • The helicopter malfunctioned and needed to be destroyed as a result of it could not fly again after the raid.
  •  US aviators put together for the malfunctions, crashes, and different mishaps which might be a threat on such missions.

Final week, Delta Power performed a counterterrorism operation in northwestern Syria that killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the chief of ISIS.

The hours-long raid killed 13 folks, together with six youngsters and 4 ladies. There have been no American casualties, however that just about wasn’t the case.

Through the operation, an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by the elite pilots of the one hundred and sixtieth Particular Operations Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the “Evening Stalkers,” needed to land after experiencing a malfunction. US forces then destroyed the chopper with an air strike to forestall it from falling into the incorrect fingers.

For the Evening Stalkers, the danger of a crash is omnipresent throughout these sorts of operations, however they’re ready for that chance.

Black Hawk down

Destroyed US helicopter after ISIS raid in Syria

A Syrian man seems to be over a US helicopter destroyed after a nighttime raid by US special-operation forces towards the chief of ISIS in Syria’s Idlib province, in February 2022.

RAMI AL SAYED/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Evening Stalkers are all the time prepared ought to one thing go incorrect with their helicopters, however their response relies upon upon the severity of the issue, in line with Greg Coker, a retired chief warrant officer 4 and legendary Evening Stalker pilot.

“For those who get a warning/warning gentle, the pilot will conduct actions in accordance with the emergency process for that helo. If critical, the pilot will notify increased [command] and land if mandatory. It might be ‘let’s fly it and watch it,'” Coker stated. “If an engine fails, then the pilot would transmit a Mayday name over the radio. Fight search and rescue can be launched, often a one hundred and sixtieth asset.”

Different helicopters participating within the operation would land to select up the downed helicopter’s crew and passengers so they may proceed the mission, Coker advised Insider.

“The pilot in command will consider the helo emergency and decide to land or go to the goal. We push our machines to the restrict to finish the mission. The mission is all the time the precedence,” Coker added.

The operational atmosphere additionally dictates how the Evening Stalkers will react. If the emergency happens in a permissive atmosphere, the helicopter might be left behind to be picked up by the forces conducting fight search and rescue.

If it takes place over a semi- or non-permissive atmosphere, then the helicopter might be destroyed both with explosives or an air strike, as was the case in Syria final week.

US MH-60 helicopter wreckage in Syria

A wrecked MH-60 helicopter that was blown up by US forces after it malfunction throughout a raid in Syria, in February 2022.

Anas Alkharboutli/image alliance by way of Getty Pictures

Ought to a helicopter go down, its pilots and crew chiefs are able to battle. Previously, Evening Stalkers have been flippantly armed, carrying handguns and lightweight machine weapons, such because the MP-5. Now they carry the identical weapons as their counterparts on the bottom, they usually know the best way to use them.

“All Evening Stalkers are extremely educated in weapons and ways if discovered on the bottom. They’re all proficient shooters and thought of an asset by the bottom drive and never a legal responsibility,” stated Coker, including that that was one among classes realized after the 1993 mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, through which two Evening Stalker helicopters have been shot down and their crews wounded or killed.

Coker, who flew the AH-6 Little Chook gunship for 11 deployments with the Evening Stalkers, is aware of what a crash seems to be like. In 2004, Iraqi insurgents shot down his helicopter, however Coker and his co-pilot survived and continued preventing, an expertise he wrote about in “Loss of life Waits within the Darkish: Six Weapons Do not Miss.”

“Clearly you can not prepare the precise occasion, however we do a substantial quantity of planning and mission prep, pondering via such contingencies and the way we might reply,” a retired Delta Power operator who participated in lots of of helicopter assault operations advised Insider. The previous operator requested that his identify not be used to guard his privateness. 

“Though it does not occur usually, it does occur greater than you may suppose. Helicopter mishaps are frequent downrange. When the adrenaline is dashing as you contact down shut or on the X in the midst of the evening with mud everywhere from the helicopter rotors, it is easy to overlook that small berm or the additional foot of wall,” which may harm and even carry down the plane, the retired particular operator added.

Notable crashes

Black Hawk helicopter shot down in Mogadishu Somalia

Kids stroll on the rotor of a wrecked US Black Hawk helicopter in Mogadishu, on October 14, 1993.

Scott Peterson/Liaison

There have been three notable MH-60 Black Hawk crashes involving the particular mission items of the Joint Particular Operations Command, a joint part of the US Particular Operations Command.

The primary befell within the jungles of Panama throughout a coaching occasion in 1990. An MH-60 Black Hawk carrying 11 Delta Power operators crashed into the foliage, severely wounding all aboard.

The second, and most well-known, occurred in Mogadishu in 1993 throughout what’s generally known as through the Battle of Black Sea.

Two MH-60 Black Hawks participating in a raid have been shot down by Somali militia, beginning a daylong battle within the streets of the Somali capital that left 18 Delta Power operators, Rangers, Evening Stalkers, and common troops useless.

The “Black Hawk Down” incident has had an enduring legacy. In 2021, the US Army upgraded dozens of the medals given to troops concerned within the operation.

Osama bin Laden compound raid Abbottabad Pakistan

A part of a broken helicopter on the compound the place Osama bin Laden was killed, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Might 2, 2011.


The third crash befell through the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. A specifically modified stealth MH-60 Black Hawk struck one of many compounds and crashed into the courtyard.

Nobody aboard was critically harm, however the helicopter needed to be destroyed on the scene. The tail rotor survived the demolition and pictures of it have been seen by the entire world the following morning.

“Helicopters are delicate beasts, and we’re very lucky to have the Evening Stalkers. These guys are actually one of the best helicopter pilots on the planet, and I might belief them with my life. It says one thing about their expertise that, regardless of the hazards, we very not often have any casualties,” the retired Delta commando stated.

“Our helicopters are one of the best maintained plane on the planet. Critical upkeep points not often happen, however once they do, one of the best air crews on the planet will determine it out and proceed mission,” Coker added. “You’ll be able to exchange helicopters, however you may’t exchange Evening Stalkers.”

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate.