With the downing of the US Army Chinook (call sign “Extortion17″) has come a wave of speculation, assertions and allegations. These have ranged from charges that these Service members were murdered outright by their own government, to stories that an Afghani went berserk inside the aircraft in flight. To look at this incident objectively requires a couple of items to be cleared up.
1. “An RPG-7 could not have brought the aircraft down.” This is such an asinine, uninformed statement I cannot believe that it was even made. The RPG-7 is a cheap but highly effective anti armor weapon with its shaped charge warhead that can penetrate 330mm of armor plate, and it is capable of defeating the armor of all main battle tanks in service anywhere in the world. Both the AH-64 Apache and the vaunted Russian Hind “Flying Tank” have fallen victim to this weapon and both of these attack helicopters are more heavily armored and nimbler than any variant of the Chinook, including the Spec-Ops variant normally used by the units assigned to United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
2. “The Chinook is too fast to be hit by an RPG.” Rubbish! Anyone who has ever served in or around these Aircraft can tell you that they are a “great lumbering behemoth” especially on approach. Take a moment and peruse the available videos out on the web showing these aircraft performing landing operations and any layman will be able to see the vulnerability of this airframe within seconds. The reason they are used in Afghanistan is because they are the only Helicopter that has the operational ceiling needed to perform in the Afghan mountains. In other words, they are the only helicopter that can operate reliably at those altitudes.
Now on to Ms.Barnhardt’s article. I had at first decided to ignore the links to her story, but in fairness I decided I would give it a read. I am glad now that I did as Ms.Barnhardt has gone off “half-cocked”. In her rush to post she did not even research the maze of conflicting reports and she just posted them all (inbound/outbound stories). Within five minutes of searching I was able to find a brief “Sit-Rep” of the operation from the site Army Air Crews:
B/2-135 GSAB (CO & NE ARNG)
#89-0175 “EXTORTION 17″
A/C crashed at approx 0300 hours at Tangi Joi Zareen, in the district of Sayd Abad in Wardak Province. A/C was on a QRF insertion mission to assist members of the 75th Rangers pinned down by enemy fire in a fierce firefight. Early reports indicate A/C was shot down by an RPG.
This supports the “Inbound” story. Barnhardt states in another post on the subject that she could find only one other incident of the “Spec Ops” version of the Chinook being brought down by RPG fire. She did not look hard enough because if you scroll down the page at the Army Air Crews site you will find two previous downings of Spec Ops Chinooks from the “Nightstalkers”(SOAR) brought down by RPGs. “Nightstalkers” are the Spec Ops Aviation unit that transport SEALS and other Special Operations troops on their missions. It was no “Golden BB” once in a lifetime shot. An RPG is capable of taking out a M1 Abrams and it will take out a Chinook as it is very vulnerable both upon arrival and departure.
Ms.Barnhardt raises the question about why the SEAL Team boarded the Chinook that they did:
What in the HELL was a CH-47 TRANSPORT helo doing in a DEVGRU combat theater???? FILLED WITH 25 SEALS??????? If the SEALs’ MH-47G SPECOPS Chinook that they rode in on was taken out in the Tangi theater, where is the fallen MH-47G helo itself? Shouldn’t there also be dead crew members from the 160th SOAR, which is an Army unit? This ain’t right, people. I’m telling you. This is NOT RIGHT.
First off, the area of operations is not exclusive to DEVGRU. Secondly CH-47s of all variants operate all over Afghanistan transporting men and material. I will add that Ms.Barnhardt is lacking in knowledge for one pursuing the line of questioning that she is. Case in point, the Chinook variants MH-47E-G differ from the current “Transports” in Avionics, Hardpoints for defensive Machineguns, Extraction/Insertion equipment and aerial refueling capabilities. There is no additional armoring above what any other Chinook in service has. There is no crashed bird from the 160th because it was a Helo from B/2-135 “Muleskinners” of the Nebraska Army National Guard. Before you make the same mistake that Ms.Barnhardt did and call them “green”, bear in mind that ANG crews have more operational flight hours than most regulars.
She also raises the question as to why the SEALs boarded this Helo and not one of their “idle” MH-47s. Firstly, these are not your daddy’s pickup truck and you don’t just jump in, turn the key and take off. The Muleskinner was warmed up ready to go to head where it was needed, and it was most likely loaded with ammo and other “needfulls” for the pinned down Rangers. As to the SEALs? Well if you never been there allow me to illuminate. These men “Run to the Gun” and their comrades in arms were in it up to their necks and needed help. This is what men in combat do. They go to the aid of their buddies and if you wait it will be too late.
Ms.Barnhardt presents assertions, allegations and questions, but she is very short on cold hard facts and anything resembling knowledge of how things work in combat. This, in my opinion was a tragedy of war, not murder.