After a local contact reached out to The War Zone journalist Tyler Rogoway for answers about a strange incident late on Wednesday night, the reporter was able to later verify that a group of helicopters from 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) flying out Joint Base Lewis–McChord was responsible for the disturbance.
The testimony passed to Rogoway describes a trio of helicopters flying low enough they could be identified even on a cloudy night - and stir up plenty of hubbub in town the next morning.
“It was between 1:15 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. they came from the south heading north northwest flying super low, like lower than any training exercises I've ever seen maybe 150 ft to 100 ft or less,” the witness told The War Zone.
“It was hard to tell being how late it was and dark with cloud cover. But they were low enough to be able to see the underside of the aircraft with some detail. It was what appeared to be an Osprey with two other helicopters flanking it from the underside... They may have been Apaches or Blackhawks. They were going somewhere in a hurry and flying a tight formation... Only the Osprey had one small red light on its tail on,” they said.
It didn’t take Rogoway long to triangulate the identity of the mystery choppers: one of the Night Stalker battalions is based at Joint Base Lewis–McChord, a US Army and Air Force base about 90 miles northeast of where they were spotted.
According to a statement from the base’s public affairs office, the drills involved not only the Night Stalkers, but also US Army Rangers and some exotic equipment such as the Air Force’s CV-22 Osprey, specially designed with terrain-following radar and extra fuel tanks to support special ops.
The Night Stalkers have been part of many of the US Army’s special operations, including the invasion-coups in Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, and an amusing stunt in Chad in 1988 which saw them airlift out of the country a Soviet-made Mi-25 “Hind-D” attack helicopter abandoned by the Libyan Air Force.
However, they are perhaps best known for their involvement in the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3-4, 1993, when two Night Stalker Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in what became known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident. Five of the 18 US soldiers killed in the battle belonged to the squadron.
Some Americans might not have known it, but the Night Stalkers were also behind several terrifying incidents in Los Angeles and New York City, when residents filmed the unit’s choppers zooming down city streets just several dozen feet off the ground.
Black military helicopters flying VERY low by our apartment in lower manhattan. (We are 18th floor.) pic.twitter.com/T1fVLAHVVQ— Susan Temple Lefler (@st_lefler) April 18, 2018
According to the base, the Night Stalkers and Rangers have been drilling at Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, a semi-abandoned and incomplete power station in Washington state, although Rogoway noted the chopper pilots will often sharpen their skills by practicing complex and challenging maneuvers, as the videos show.