Saturday, May 7, 2011

Night Stalkers Share Spotlight With SEALS

SEAL Team Six earned most of the post-Osama bin Laden attention this week, but as the days wore on most of the world also discovered the existence of the "Night Stalkers," the black ops pilots who flew the super-secret stealth helicopters into Abbottabad without detection (sort of).

President Obama met up yesterday with the crews of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at their base at Fort Campbell, Ky., thanking them "for their extraordinary service."

 If you take to heart Obama's off-handed comment after the mission was completed last Sunday quoted by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters that the Night Stalkers flew run about $60 million apiece.

Those stealth helicopters are said to contain technology that reduces noise and deflects radar and heat detection. They either fooled the Pakistanis or the Pakistanis were indeed on board with the mission, contrary to what both Washington and Islamabad has since said.

Though not known as well as some of the black ops units of the U.S. military, the Night Stalkers have been around for a while, according to the U.S. Army. They were born out of the failed 1980 raid to rescue the hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

One of the lessons learned from that mission was a need for pilots who were trained and focused on night flying and were special operators in their own right, similar to the SEALS, Delta Force, Green Berets and Marine reconnaissance teams.

Originally culled from the 101st Airborne Division, known as The Screaming Eagles and based at Fort Campbell, the unit's unofficial motto is, "Death Waits in the Dark." That pretty much says it all. The official and more family-friendly motto is, "Night Stalkers Don't Quit."

One of the Night Stalkers' best-known and most-devastating missions came in 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia, which inspired the book and film "Black Hawk Down." Two Black Hawks flown by the Night Stalkers,  Super 6-1 and Super 6-4, were lost in the battle of Mogadishu along with five members of the 160th.

Like the failed mission in Iran that created the Night Stalkers, many lessons were learned from the Black Hawk Down episode, shoring up the unit's capability and ensuring that no lives were lost in vain.

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