U.S. Soldiers Intentionally Destroy Aircraft in Syria Following ISIS Raid

A left front view of a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in flight during Operation Desert Shield. [Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense]

U.S. special forces destroyed their own helicopter to keep it from falling into enemy hands following a raid to kill the leader of the terrorist group ISIS. 

The raid happened on February 2 with U.S. forces deploying from U.S. Black Hawk helicopters. This is the same method used in 2011 during the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. 

During the operation, a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter used by the U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment experienced what has been described by officials as "a mechanical malfunction," and, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, was intentionally destroyed by U.S. ground forces. 

"The helicopter was able to depart the target location and land at another location further away off-site," Kirby said in the statement. "But ultimately, it was determined that further use of the helicopter was not practical, and, in fact, could be dangerous. And so Gen. [Kenneth] McKenzie made the decision that the helicopter should be abandoned and detonated so it could be destroyed in place.” 

The objective of the mission was to kill ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. U.S. forces surrounded a three-story house near the town of Atmeh, Syria. Al-Qurayshi had been the leader of ISIS since 2019. 

A two-hour fire fight ensued. 

President Joe Biden gave a press conference about the event Thursday, noting, "As our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard to the lives of his own family or others the building, he chose to blow himself up."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 13 people, including four children and three women, were killed in the operation. There were no casualties among U.S. forces.

Officials noted that this type of operation is more dangerous to ground troops. However, it is more preferable to air strikes, which often result in the deaths of  noncombatants.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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