What does practically each productive mission by Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, and Green Berets have in popular? They’ve possibly been carried to and from their missions by members of the 160th Particular Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne with the abbreviation of 160th SOAR (A).
The 160th SOAR generally identified as the “Night Stalkers” are the US Army’s finest aviators and the premiere rotary wing aviation unit in the military’s Particular Operations Forces. Their moniker is nicely-deserved, a lot of pilots in the 160th have additional flight hours with NVGs than industrial airline pilots have flight hours total.
The 160th operates 3 distinct kinds of helicopters, the Blackhawk, Chinook and Tiny Bird choppers in distinct styles based on the mission. Evening Stalkers are authorities in flying missions ranging from direct action air assault to quickly-rope insertion, overwater helocasting, extraction, and unique boat assistance, as nicely as urban assault. They can also deliver their personal Close Air Assistance (CAS) of these missions and for the supported units.
Assessment and Education: Candidates for the 160th SOAR undergo a one particular-week assessment procedure with Particular Operations Aviation Education Battalion (SOATB) exactly where they go thru interviews with military and civilian members of the SOATB and have their character and demeanor assessed. A records verify is performed and the candidates are also evaluated psychologically.
Pilots will conduct two flights to test their flying and navigation abilities. If at the finish of assessment week, they’ve been chosen, the pilots will be told what kind of aircraft they’ll be flying. They might be selected to fly a distinct helicopter than one particular that they’ve been accustomed to. That might entail additional coaching later.
The 1st phase of coaching covers ground-primarily based combat abilities it lasts 3 weeks for officers and 5 to six weeks for enlisted personnel. Candidates assigned to the “Green Platoon” get instruction on fundamental combat tasks, 1st responder, land navigation, hand-to-hand combat, weapons, and teamwork. Then they ought to pass qualification in the helicopter “dunker” and do water survival coaching.
For the pilots the about six-month coaching system requires spot in Corporation B which is accountable for aviators, crew chiefs and medics in two stages. 1st is a fundamental navigation course that lasts about a month. It is all performed in the Tiny Birds for the reason that it is economical to operate, compared to the Black Hawks and Chinooks.
Pilots will then be educated for the helicopters that they will fly in a 4-month sophisticated abilities courses. Based on the birds, the courses will differ. But at the finish of this section of the system, a potential Evening Stalker will be proficient in all kinds of combat circumstances. They’ll all get knowledge flying in the desert, mountains, and more than water shipboard deck landing qualifications as nicely as urban warfare tasks. They’ll started pretty proficient at flying with evening vision goggles (NVGs). Their final tasks will be becoming proficient in aerial in-flight refueling and nap-of-the earth flying a great deal closer to the ground than standard Army pilots.
Upon productive completion of the sophisticated abilities course in their aircraft kind, they are provided a verify ride by an instructor pilot. It is a lengthy complete mission profile that can final up to 5-to-six hours. If they pass, they grow to be fundamental mission certified (BMQ) and are assigned to one particular of the battalions in the 160th.
As soon as a 160th pilot has two years completed in an operational unit, he can upgrade to totally mission certified (FMQ), even though to reach this they have to have to prove they can command an aircraft in a combat circumstance. Offered the present state of operations inside USSOCOM, that requisite will be simply checked off. As soon as pilots are rated as FMQ they can operate with units outdoors the 160th SOAR.
When a pilot completes an extra 3 to 4 years as a FMQ, he is then eligible to grow to be flight lead certified (FLQ). As one particular can see, the coaching by no means stops in the 160th and the knowledge level of the aircrews is outstanding.
History: Right after the disastrous 1980 Operation Eagle Claw try to rescue American hostages held in Iran, failed, President Jimmy Carter ordered the Pentagon to program yet another rescue operation. At that time, there have been no U.S. helicopter units educated to conduct a stealth, no-notice unique operations mission. Specially one particular whose specialty was flying for the duration of hours of darkness.
The Army looked to Ft. Campbell, KY, residence of the 101st Airborne Division, which had the most knowledge of the service’s helicopter units. The chosen units right away started intensive coaching in evening flying.
This provisional unit was at 1st dubbed Process Force 158 due to the fact most of the pilots have been Blackhawk aviators detached from the 158th Aviation Battalion. The new unit was speedily recognized as the Army’s premier evening fighting aviation force, and its only unique operations aviation force. The unit was officially established Oct. 16, 1981, when it was designated as the 160th Aviation Battalion.
The 160th 1st saw combat for the duration of 1983’s Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada, and has been a element of each significant conflict due to the fact. They became the 1st helicopter pilots to use sophisticated evening vision goggles and forward seeking infrared devices in evening combat.
In 1986, the unit was re-designated as the 160th Aviation Group, and became the 160th Particular Operations Aviation Regiment in Might 1990.
In June 1988, the unit executed Operation Mount Hope III. Two MH-47 crews flew 490 miles deep into Chad to retrieve a crashed Russian model Mi-24 Hind medium-attack helicopter.
The Evening Stalkers spearheaded Operation Just Bring about, the 1989 invasion of Panama, exactly where a Tiny Bird flying members of Delta Force was shot down just just after the operators rescued American Kurt Muse from a Panama City prison.
Significantly less than six months later the Evening Stalkers have been sent to Kuwait for Operation Desert Shield in the summer time of 1990 with adhere to-on combat operations in Iraq for the duration of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
In 1993 the unit was sent to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope, the humanitarian mission exactly where to assistance the UN’s mission to bring meals and help to the starving individuals that had been wracked by civil war. As soon as the clans run by warlords became as well violent, the humanitarian mission turned to combat.
Operation Gothic Serpent (the Battle of Mogadishu) in 1993, was subsequent. A single of the Regiment’s most identified battles was in Mogadishu, generally identified as “Black Hawk Down” in a book title as nicely as a function film.
Whilst supporting a group of Delta operators and Rangers attempting to arrest top rated lieutenants of the clan run by Mohamad Farrah Aidid, the unit lost two Black Hawks to RPG fire from the ground. At the second crash internet site, only one particular crewman, pilot CW3 Mike Durant survived. Two Delta snipers, Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon deployed to shield him from a Somali mob numbering into the hundreds.
In spite of inflicting serious casualties on the Somalis, each Shughart and Gordon have been ultimately killed in action whilst Durant was taken prisoner for a brief time. Later each Delta snipers have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
The war in Afghanistan, and across the Middle East have spawned the unit’s heavy operational use in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
The unit suffered heavy losses in two separate engagements. In the course of Operation Red Wings in 2005, a Evening Stalker Chinook carry a SEAL Group Swift Reaction Force (QRF) on its way to rescue a little four-man SEAL group below heavy fire was hit by an RPG. All eight SEALs on board and all eight Evening Stalkers died in the crash.
Later yet another Chinook carrying U.S. and Afghan military forces on a evening-raid mission in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan’s Wardak province on August six, 2011, was shot down by Taliban insurgents making use of an RPG. Thirty Americans and eight Afghans have been killed in the attack and the helicopter’s subsequent crash. Seventeen of the U.S. servicemen killed have been Navy SEALs, which includes 15 commandos from Naval Warfare Improvement Group (DEVGRU), superior identified as SEAL Group Six.
But possibly the unit’s finest-identified results story was Operation Neptune Spear. A combined force of the 160th’s Chinooks and specially modified “stealth” Black Hawks carried SEAL Group Six (DEVGRU) from Afghanistan into Abbottabad, Pakistan on a mission to kill Osama bin Laden. A single of the Black Hawks crashed into the compound and had to be subsequently destroyed by the crew and the SEALs to preserve the stealth secrets and avionics but the unit completed their mission and absolutely everyone was returned to Afghanistan safely.
On a private aside, I’ve flown with Evening Stalkers on all 3 kinds of their aircraft. We performed quickly rope missions out of Black Hawks and Chinooks and flew on the Tiny Birds which is an adrenaline rush that might be even superior than becoming a jumpmaster on a C-130. My Evening Stalker coin, provided to me by a Corporation Commander in the 160th is one particular of my prized possessions.
These days there are additional than three,000 specially chosen and educated Evening Stalkers in the Regiment. So the subsequent time you see a Particular Operations unit conducting a higher-profile mission on tv or study about it in a newspaper, you can be confident who brought them to the target and who brought them residence safely. “Night Stalkers Do not Quit.”
Photo courtesy DOD
Want to find out about the distinction involving Delta Force and SEAL Group Six? Study right here
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