The investigation into the deadly helicopter crash in August that killed 30 Americans and eight Afghans has found that no one was at fault for the deadliest incident for U.S. troops in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
On Aug. 6, a Chinook CH-47D helicopter was brought down by enemy fire as it was carrying a team of elite Navy SEALs to help support a nighttime mission to capture a Taliban leader in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. Seventeen Navy SEALs and five SEAL Support forces were killed in the crash, along with three Air Force special operators, five Army helicopter crew personnel and 8 Afghan soldiers.
Shortly after the crash, Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, ordered an investigation into the circumstances.
An executive summary of the investigation made public by U.S. Central Command Wednesday evening said the Chinook helicopter carrying special operations forces was brought down by a rocket propelled grenade.
According to the report’s author, Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt, “After conducting my investigation, I have determined that this mission, and the tactics and resources employed in its execution, were consistent with previous U.S. special operations missions and the strike forces selected to execute the mission were appropriate. I also determined that the CH-47D was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fired by a Taliban fighter as the helicopter neared its landing zone.”
Colt’s investigation also determined that the decision to load the transport helicopter with so many troops was “tactically sound.” In the wake of the crash there had been some question as to whether putting the elite special operations forces aboard the helicopter was a risky move.
”The decision to load the IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) onto one CH-47D in order to mitigate risk by minimizing aircraft exposure to ground fire and to mass the assault force was tactically sound,” said the report.
It added, “The shoot down was not the result of a baited ambush, but rather the result of the enemy being at a heightened state of alert due to 3 1/2 hours of ongoing coalition air operations concentrated over the northwestern portion of the Tangi Valley.”
The five-page executive summary sheds new details into the timeline of events that resulted in the deadly helicopter crash. For example, the investigation found that two or three RPG rounds were fired by Taliban insurgents at the helicopter. The first missed, but a second round struck the helicopter’s tail rotor, bringing the aircraft down within seconds.
The investigation of the crash also helps explain why there were so many personnel sent as part of the mission beyond the 17 SEALs who were serving as the immediate response force. The additional personnel were added to help provide support so the team could leave the area of fighting by land during daylight hours in preparation for a nighttime helicopter pickup the following night.