Black Hawk suffered ‘mechanical issue’ after Syria raid against ISIS leader

By Dan Parsons | February 4, 2022

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 15 seconds.

U.S. commandos were forced to abandon and destroy a special operations Black Hawk helicopter in Syria on Feb. 2, after it experienced apparent mechanical problems during a predawn counterterrorism raid. 

President Joseph Biden launched a raid with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) personnel, under the command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), against ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, as opposed to targeting him with an airstrike, in order to minimize risk to civilians, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

U.S. troops carried out the raid without the assistance of allies and were on the ground for about two hours total. Kirby would not say how many helicopter and troops were involved in the raid, but said “we had exactly the force levels and exactly the resources we needed to conduct this operation.” 

Qurayshi blew himself up before the assault force entered his compound, Kirby said during a briefing from the Pentagon on Feb. 3

“While there were no U.S. casualties, one of our helicopters did suffer mechanical failure early on in the infiltration phase of the operation,” Kirby said. “The helicopter was able to depart the target location and land at another location further away, offsite. Ultimately it was determined that further use of the helicopter was not practical and, in fact, could be dangerous.”

Photos of what is likely the wreckage of a MH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, possibly belonging to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), emerged online before either President Biden or the Pentagon briefed the press.

Kirby said the mechanical issue was related to the helicopter’s drivetrain. Videos from the scene show an almost completely destroyed helicopter, with only the nose cone and tail rotor still recognizable.

“It didn’t catch fire,” he said. “It didn’t crash. It landed safely at an alternative location. They looked at it to determine if it could be fixed and continue to be use in the operation and it was determined that was not possible.” 

— Wesley Morgan (@wesleysmorgan) February 3, 2022

A decision to abandon the aircraft and destroy it in place was made by U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of CENTCOM. Conflicting reports indicate the helicopter was rigged to explode on the ground, fired on by another helicopter with an air-to-ground missile or both. Another report says the helicopter was fired on by a U.S. F-16 fighter.

The 160th SOAR, also called the “Night Stalkers” provide aviation services to all U.S. special ops forces, including Navy SEALS, the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta or Delta Force and others. Their MH-60M Black Hawks and MH-47G Chinook helicopters have been critical to other successful counter-terrorism raids like the Oct. 2019 mission during which then-ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was cornered and killed. 

As the unit’s nickname implies, the 160th often flies raid missions at night, complicating the process of landing and recovering assault troops. Because special forces helicopters like the MH-60M Black Hawk are packed full of classified communications, targeting and sensor equipment, troops attempt to destroy them as thoroughly as possible if lost during missions. 

The same thing happened during the raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. During that nighttime operation, a highly classified stealth version of the UH-60 crashed into a wall, severing its tail boom. The helicopter was destroyed by SEALS and the wreckage was left when they evacuated with Bin Laden’s corpse.

Notice a spelling mistake or typo?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Report an error or typo

Have a story idea you would like to suggest?

Click on the button below to send an email to our team and we will get to it as soon as possible.

Suggest a story

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.