Fascinating background information on the Bin Laden attack in 2011

The “flight lead” of the helicopters on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, recently retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Englen, has provided more information about that mission, with encouragement from his superior officers.

It was just 30 seconds into the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when special operations Chinook pilot Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Englen heard the call of “Black Hawk down” come over his radio.

Black Hawk 2′s pilot alerted Englen — the pilot in charge of the air operation that night — that Black Hawk-1 had just crashed inside the 9/11 mastermind’s Abbottabad compound.

Englen, the air component planner for Operation Neptune’s Spear, was pissed off.

His crew in Chinook-1 and another crew in Chinook-2 had been setting up a refuel site for the two Black Hawks, about 30 miles to the north. But his Chinook immediately went straight to the objective area, to pick up the ground force and the aircrew. Meanwhile, the other Chinook stayed at the refueling site.

“We just went into contingency mode,” said Englen, talking about the raid, and his life, for the first time in an exclusive interview with Military Times. “Didn’t know the severity — if it was crashed with casualties? If it crashed in civilian area? All we do is minimize our time and get there as quick as possible,” Englen said.

He could see where the police lights were, where the commotion was happening. Blue police lights don’t show up in night vision goggles, so Englen looked under his goggles to see those blue lights.

From getting the call, Englen was there less than 10 minutes after the aircraft crash. As he came in fast to pick up the ground force and air crew, he saw the downed helicopter.

Just as Englen was about to land, the team master chief told him over the radio to break away. The fuse was ready to blow up the crashed helicopter.

“I was probably 100 feet from the aircraft when it blew up. It pushed our aircraft to the side. I had to actually fly away, make a tight circle and come back in, and land under the mushroom cloud. I landed to the east of the compound, right next to it. I mean like, right next to it,” Englen explained.

. . .

Englen’s Chinook headed back to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, while the remaining Black Hawk (Chalk-2) headed to the refuel site about 30 miles north of Abbottabad.

The other Chinook had set up prior to the Black Hawk coming in, shutting the aircraft down and running the fuel hoses out.

“So, that’s time for the Chinook to get there, time it to shut down, time to refuel, close up the refuel hoses, start the aircraft and head out. It takes a little bit of time,” Englen said.

That meant they were sitting on the ground vulnerable inside a sovereign nation, after invading its airspace and assaulting a compound. The Chinook was on the ground for probably 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, Englen’s lone Chinook on its way back was engaged three times by a Pakistani F-16. Because he’d anticipated and planned for that, he was able to defeat and evade the fighter jet.

“It was as an electronic fight. A missile never left the rail. So I was able to evade him electronically. That’s all I’ll say. But, he was searching and hunting for me, and three times came very close to actually launching a missile,” Englen said.

He’d done that before with other fighter jets on other missions.

“That’s why we were picked for this mission. And, I was one of the few who trained 160th crews how to do that,” he added.

Regardless, they were still jinking and jiving, flying nap-of-the-earth.

“We pulled every technique and tactic out of the book. And it worked,” he said.

There’s more at the link, including more about CWO5 Englen’s military career in general.  He retired as the “senior warrant adviser to the secretary of the Army and most decorated aviator in the Army”.

Highly recommended reading.



  1. Helo pilots are wicked people.

    And then there's the Son Tay Prison assault in Vietnam, where USAF helo pilots purposely crashed a fully armed HH-3E Jolly Green Giant in the center of the prison compound just to save 10 very long seconds of time, instead of flairing and landing.

    Fantastic raid, only one injury, a broken ankle, amongst the Raiders.

    Complete kill of all enemy forces.

    Too bad the prisoners were moved just a few days before.

    Back to Pakistan and the raid for Osama.

    The Chinook is probably the only helo that could have survived the blast of the Blackhawk, being one of the best helicopters ever made. Fast, able to handle a huge amount of weight, and stable.

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