Meet the Night Stalkers, the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous and secretive operations
Cpl. Carlos Jimenez / US Marine Corps / DVIDSThe Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne (SOAR-A) is the elite aviation unit that flies special operators like Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force into the most dangerous and secretive missions the US conducts. The 160th, nicknamed the Night Stalkers, operates religiously my their creed, which says they'll be there within plus or minus 30 seconds of any operation time, and they'd "rather die than quit." Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.
The Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname "The Night Stalkers."
Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.
Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.
While many of the 160th SOAR's operations are secret, it's widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that "would rather die than quit."The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk. Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena / US Army / DVIDS
The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.
The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are "highly modified and designed to meet the unit's unique mission requirements," according to the Army.
All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft's ability to operate over long distances.
The Night Stalkers's MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.
The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight / US Navy / DVIDS
The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army's CH-47 Chinook.
The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.
The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 "minigun" machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.
The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.
The 160th was born out of tragedy. Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor / US Marine Corps / DVIDS
The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.
During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.
The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.
What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.
The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.
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