by Dominic Oto
Who are the Army Stalkers?
The U.S. Army Night Stalkers are a team of highly trained helicopter pilots. Also known as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the unit was formed in 1981 after the failed rescue attempt of the Iran hostages by Delta Force.
The military needed an elite group of helicopter pilots to take on dangerous missions. Today, the Night Stalkers are considered the U.S. military’s most elite helicopter support unit. They serve all over the world and are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The Night Stalkers use helicopters to perform both overt and clandestine missions. They take members of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), USASOC and USSOCOM into denied enemy territory. They also pick them up and deliver them to safety.
The term Night Stalkers originated from the unit’s propensity to fly primarily at night.
Gear and Weapons
The Night Stalkers have many helicopters in their inventory to complete their dangerous missions. One of them is the MH-60 Black Hawk, an upgraded version of the US Military’s UH-60.
For reconnaissance missions to gain information on the enemy they use the MH-6 Little Bird, sometimes called the “flying egg.” The Little Bird has an attack variant known as the AH-6. The MH-6 can carry six Special Operations personnel on bench seats mounted to the side doors of the helicopter. The Little Bird was designed as a scout helicopter for Army armored units. Since the early 1980s, the Night Stalkers have used it almost exclusively for the support of special operations missions.
The workhorse of the Night Stalkers is the MH-47 Chinook. The Chinook is a twin bladed that is an advanced heavy-lift helicopter used for both cargo and transportation of commandos. The Chinook is used for the insertion and extraction of Special Operations Forces during missions. The aircraft is also be used in the resupply role to carry heavy payloads.
Most Night Stalkers helicopters have an amazing offensive capability. Some have 7.62mm Miniguns. These machine guns can fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute. In addition, the helicopters are outfitted with .50 caliber machine guns, hellfire rockets, and various ordinance, all designed to provide air to ground cover for troops.
Life as a Night Stalker
Pilots go through intense training to become Night Stalkers. Before a pilot can even apply he has to have at least 1,000 flight hours. At least 100 hours must be done wearing night-vision goggles. Pilots must also pass physical and mental tests.
All Night Stalker pilots start with a “basic mission qualified” status. They can’t command a mission until they have 12 to 18 months experience. Then after their probation period they are “fully mission qualified.”
Trainees, both pilots and support personnel, who pass the screening test join Green Platoon. In Green Platoon the candidates get 14 more weeks of brutal training. Recruits take classes on weapons, survival, surviving interrogation, and advanced aviation operations. Next, recruits spend two weeks learning advanced navigation. Finally, the pilots spend six additional weeks learning to fly a specific helicopter.
Green Platoon members who survive the training get their new assignments at the end. They are assigned to Night Stalker headquarters up to four battalions. Then they join their company. Each company is ready to deploy within four hours of mission notification.
The Night Stalkers motto is: “Anywhere, anytime, Night Stalkers don’t quit!”
Weiser, Andrea L. U.S. Army Special Operations Command: Night Stalkers, Special Operations Aviation. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2000.
Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. Oto is also the author of “The Message and Ministry of Billy Graham: A Biography of America’s Preacher”.