One other Helicopter Went Down on a US Particular-Ops Raid. Here is How Elite Aviators Put together for that Worst-Case Situation.

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

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

Through the operation, an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by the elite pilots of the a hundred and sixtieth Particular Operations Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the “Evening Stalkers,” needed to land after struggling a malfunction. US forces then destroyed the chopper with an airstrike to stop it from falling into the mistaken arms.

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

Black Hawk Down

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

“When you get a warning/warning mild, the pilot will conduct actions in accordance with the emergency process for that helo. If critical, the pilot will notify greater [command] and land if essential. It could be ‘let’s fly it and watch it,'” Coker mentioned. “If an engine fails then the pilot would transmit a Mayday name over the radio. Fight search and rescue could be launched, normally a a hundred and sixtieth asset.”

Different helicopters collaborating within the operation would land to select up the downed helicopter’s crew and passengers so they might proceed the mission, Coker instructed 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 setting additionally dictates how the Evening Stalkers will react. If the emergency happens in a permissive setting, the helicopter shall 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 setting, then the helicopter shall be destroyed both with explosives or an airstrike, as was the case in Syria final week.

Ought to a helicopter go down, its pilots and crew chiefs are able to combat. Prior to now, Evening Stalkers have been flippantly armed, carrying handguns and light-weight machine weapons, such because the MP-5. Now they carry the identical weapons as their counterparts on the bottom, and so they know methods to use them.

“All Evening Stalkers are extremely educated in weapons and techniques if discovered on the bottom. They’re all proficient shooters and thought of an asset by the bottom pressure and never a legal responsibility. [That was] one of many classes realized after Mogadishu,” Coker mentioned, referring to the 1993 mission in Somalia through which two Evening Stalker helicopters have been shot down and their crews wounded or killed.

Coker, who flew the AH-6 Little Chicken gunship for 11 deployments with the Evening Stalkers, is aware of what a crash appears to be like 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 “Demise 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, considering by way of such contingencies and the way we’d reply,” a retired Delta Power operator who participated in tons of of helicopter assault operations instructed Insider.

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

Notable crashes

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

The primary happened 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 often known as in the course of the Battle of Black Sea.

Two MH-60 Black Hawks collaborating in a raid have been shot down by Somali militia, beginning a day-long 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.

The third crash happened in the course of 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 compound and crashed into the courtyard.

Nobody aboard was severely 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’d belief them with my life. It says one thing about their expertise that regardless of the risks we very not often have any casualties,” the retired Delta commando mentioned.

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

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