160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne)
"160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment"
160th Aviation Group (Special Operations) (Airborne)
160th Aviation Battalion (Special Operations) (Airborne)
Task Force 160 (TF 160)
The mission of the 160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne), better known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), "Night Stalkers," is to organize, equip, train, resource, and employ Army special operations aviation forces worldwide in support of contingency missions and warfighting commanders. It is highly trained and ready to accomplish the very toughest missions in all environments, anywhere in the world, day or night, with unparalleled precision. The Regiment employed a wide array of specialized aircraft, including highly modified Chinook, Black Hawk and assault and attack configurations of Little Bird helicopters.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment uses specially modified aircraft and highly trained pilots and aircrews to get special operations teams to their missions. Often moving through hostile territory or flying in bad weather or at night, the 160th SOAR has adopted the name "Night Stalkers." The Regiment is recognized for proficiency in night time operations.
State-of-the-art equipment was a critical requirement of successful Army Special Operations Aviation (ARSOA) operations, and the Regiment possessed several very different and capable aircraft. The ARSOA rotary-wing aircraft included the AH/MH-6 Little Bird; the MH-60 Black Hawk; the MH-60 variant, known as the Direct Action Penetrator (DAP); and the MH-47 Chinook. ARSOA units were designed to plan, conduct, and support special operations missions unilaterally or jointly in all theaters and all levels of conflict. To accomplish this mission, ARSOA units were task organized according to the unit they would support, the theater of operations, and expected missions. ARSOA task organizations were formed around one of the assault battalions.
ARSOA was an integral part of special operations. ARSOA units plan and conduct air operations in all operational environments across the spectrum of conflict. They were specially trained and equipped to conduct special operations as part of an Army special operations task force (ARSOTF) or joint special operations task force (JSOTF). To employ this force properly, commanders had to understand the basic characteristics of special operations in general and ARSOA in particular. ARSOA provided the commander a means to infiltrate, resupply, and exfiltrate Army special operations forces (ARSOF) engaged in all core missions and collateral activities.
ARSOA units were trained and equipped to infiltrate, resupply, and exfiltrate US Special Operations Forces (USSOF) and other designated personnel. Training was specifically tailored to profiles that supported the SOF mission. ARSOA units preferred to operate at night. They used night vision goggles (NVG) or night vision systems (NVS) and low-level flight profiles. They conduct training in all operational environments and terrain: desert, mountain, jungle, urban, and over water. Inherent in the training was the ability to operate from maritime platforms. Training emphasizes precise navigation over long-range and under adverse weather conditions.
ARSOA aircraft were modified to add the capability for aerial refueling and were also modified to enhance precise navigation, secure communications, long-range flight performance, and increased weapons lethality. The enhancements gave ARSOA the unique capability to take advantage of adverse weather, limited visibility, or low ceilings. These conditions provided concealment for air operations and helped ARSOA units achieve surprise. Organic attack helicopter aircrews were specifically trained to provide close air support and terminal guidance for precision munitions and support of special operations forces.
ARSOA was not equipped or manned to provide its own food service or water storage. It requires food service 24 hours a day because of varied aircrew schedules. ARSOA could not secure its aircraft or operating base. It had to operate from a secure base and airfield. ARSOA was not equipped or manned to effect its own integration into the airspace control system and requires support or augmentation for airspace deconfliction and tactical air support coordination. It could accept supply point distribution or to conduct moves because it did not have the ground support assets necessary to accept supply point distribution or to conduct moves. It required the unit distribution method of resupply and ground transportation support to conduct unit moves.
ARSOA was not equipped to provide sufficient billeting for its personnel and requires climate-controlled facilities that had to be compartmented and lighted to accommodate varied aircrew schedules. ARSOA was not equipped, manned, or apportioned to the theater in sufficient quantities to provide even its own aerial resupply or to conduct its own unit movement and required GP aviation aerial resupply and aerial movement support. ARSOA required stove-pipe requisition and distribution systems for resupply of ARSOA-peculiar Class II, V, and IX items. Resupply of these items could not be met through normal requisition and distribution systems.
The capabilities of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) have been evolving since the early 1980s. Shortly after the failed hostage rescue mission, Desert One, in Iran, the Army formed a special aviation unit. T he unit drew on some of the best aviators in the Army and immediately began an intensive training program in low-level, night operations. The unit became a battalion of its own and began forming on 16 October 1981. The unit was first constituted on 1 April 1982 in the Regular Army as the 160th Aviation Battalion, assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, and activated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The unit was popularly known as Task Force 160 because of the constant attachment and detachment of units to prepare for a wide variety of missions. Its focus on night operations resulted in the nickname, "The Night Stalkers." The unit pioneered night flight techniques and shared in the development of equipment.
The unit originally was formed from elements of the 101st Aviation Battalion, 158th Aviation Battalion, 229th Aviation Battalion, and the 159th Aviation Battalion, immediately entered into a period of intensive night flying and quickly became the Army's premier night fighting aviation force and the Army's only Special Operations Aviation force.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion received its baptism by fire during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. Despite flying against a heavily armed Cuban and Grenadan force, the Task Force was able to complete its mission. After 1983, the unit responded to numerous missions at the request of the National Command Authority. These included the eminently successful Mount Hope III Operation in June 1988, performed in the most demanding environmental flight conditions imaginable, clearly demonstrating the ability of man and machine to strike deep, accomplish the mission and return safely.
The Battalion participated in Operation Prime Chance, conducting sustained operations and ably supported a joint military Task Force under extraordinarily difficult and hazardous conditions. Operation Prime Chance resulted in the first successful night combat engagement, which neutralized an enemy threat while using Aviator Night Vision Goggles and Forward Looking Infrared Devices.
The Battalion was called upon to spearhead Operation Just Cause, the liberation of Panama. Soldiers of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion deployed from Fort Campbell, Kentucky during the harshest winter conditions on record into the sweltering darkness of Panama. Night Stalkers conducted successful pre H-Hour combat airborne and air assaults, striking the first blows to oust a hostile dictator and safeguard American and Panamanian lives.
The organization continued to grow during the 1980s. The unit had been relieved on 16 October 1986 from assignment to the 101st Airborne Division. The Battalion was reorganized and redesignated on 16 January 1988 as the 160th Aviation (generally known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment), a parent regiment under the United States Army Regimental System. Its companies were assigned to the 160th Aviation Group (generall known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group).
On 28 June 1990, 160th Aviation was consolidated with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 160th Aviation Group (which had been first constituted on 16 October 1986 in the Regular Army and activated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky), and the consolidated unit was designated as the 160th Aviation (again, generally known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment). This respresented a response to an increased demand for elite highly trained special operations aviation assets. The Regiment initially activated 3 battalions, a separate detachment, and incorporated one National Guard battalion. The Regmient was subsequently assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command.
The reckless and senseless destruction of Kuwait was met by the swift introduction of Special Operations Aviation into the Southwest Asia theater of operations. Both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm proved the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's ability to conduct complicated night and sustained combat operations as a Unit against a determined enemy. The Regiment deployed elements of 2nd and 3rd Battalion in support of operations in southwest Asia.
In October 1993, while supporting the requirements of the National Command Authority, elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment engaged an unconventional hostile force under the direction of militia leader, Farah Aideed. The soldiers of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment entered into an 18-hour firelight of an intensity that had not been encountered since Vietnam. The dedicated efforts exhibited by the soldiers to overcome adversity and rescue fellow comrades once again demonstrated the abilities of the Regiment.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) provided aviation support to Army special operations forces. As of mid-2002, the Regiment had about 1,400 troops and operated a fleet of modified AH-6/MH-6 light helicopters, MH-60 utility helicopters, and MH-47 medium-lift helicopters. The Regiment consisted of 3 battalions. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, while the 3rd Battalion was located at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. Company D had been activated in Panama in 1995, but redeployed to Puerto Rico in 1999. Company E had been activated in near secrecy in 2001 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before being deployed to South Korea. Additionally, Company F and Company G had been activated. The organizational structure of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment allowed the Regiment to quickly tailor its unique assets to meet mission requirements of special operations forces.
In July 2002 the Army announced plans to expand the Special Operaitons aviation arm to meet a growing demand for special operations forces. The plan was to add one battalion to the 3 existing in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The expansion would add 12 MH-47 helicopters, which were the only aircraft of that type in the Army that could refuel in flight. By early August 2002 it was reported that the Army wanted to expand the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, adding about 900 troops along with 35 new helicopters. The increase was proposed for 2005 to 2009.
In late 2005, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment activated a provisional fourth battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. On 7 June 2006, the US Army announced the relocation of F Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to Fort Lewis, Washington, as well as the activation of G Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment there. F and G Companies had previously been focused to the US European Command (EUCOM) and Central Command (CENTCOM) areas of responsibility respectively. On 6 December 2006, Fort Lewis, Washington hosted an activation ceremony for the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, where the colors of the new Battalion were unveiled. Company D, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which had previously been focused toward the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility, was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. F and G Companies, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment were inactivated and reflagged as companies of the new Battalion.
Company E, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) was inactivated in late 2009, and reflagged as an element of the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The newly activated Battalion was to have a focus toward the Pacific region. At some time in 2010, Company E was reactivated again as a separate company to provide special operations unmanned aerial vehicle support.
On 1 May 2011, the United States announced that it had launched an operation into Pakistan from Afghanistan to apprehend Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed during the operation, reported to have been conducted by members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU; commonly referred to by an older title, Seal Team Six). The Naval Special Warfare operators were reported to have been inserted and/or extracted by elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). During the raid, one of the force's MH-60 helicopters was damaged and had to be destroyed in place. The remnants of the helicopter were later recovered and moved from the site by the Pakistani military.
On 25 March 2011, the US Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne) (Provisional) was activated and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was reassigned from US Army Special Operations Command to the new command.
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