How the US killed Osama Bin Laden


The New Yorker magazine has published a very long and interesting article about how the US Navy SEAL special warfare operators took out Osama bin Laden. Here’s an excerpt.

When the helicopter began getting away from the pilot, he pulled back on the cyclic, which controls the pitch of the rotor blades, only to find the aircraft unresponsive. The high walls of the compound and the warm temperatures had caused the Black Hawk to descend inside its own rotor wash—a hazardous aerodynamic situation known as “settling with power.” In North Carolina, this potential problem had not become apparent, because the chain-link fencing used in rehearsals had allowed air to flow freely. A former helicopter pilot with extensive special-operations experience said of the pilot’s situation, “It’s pretty spooky—I’ve been in it myself. The only way to get out of it is to push the cyclic forward and fly out of this vertical silo you’re dropping through. That solution requires altitude. If you’re settling with power at two thousand feet, you’ve got plenty of time to recover. If you’re settling with power at fifty feet, you’re going to hit the ground.”

The pilot scrapped the plan to fast-rope and focussed on getting the aircraft down. He aimed for an animal pen in the western section of the compound. The SEALs on board braced themselves as the tail rotor swung around, scraping the security wall. The pilot jammed the nose forward to drive it into the dirt and prevent his aircraft from rolling onto its side. Cows, chickens, and rabbits scurried. With the Black Hawk pitched at a forty-five-degree angle astride the wall, the crew sent a distress call to the idling Chinooks.

. . .

After a few minutes, the twelve SEALs inside helo one recovered their bearings and calmly relayed on the radio that they were proceeding with the raid. They had conducted so many operations over the past nine years that few things caught them off guard. In the months after the raid, the media have frequently suggested that the Abbottabad operation was as challenging as Operation Eagle Claw and the “Black Hawk Down” incident, but the senior Defense Department official told me that “this was not one of three missions. This was one of almost two thousand missions that have been conducted over the last couple of years, night after night.” He likened the routine of evening raids to “mowing the lawn.” On the night of May 1st alone, special-operations forces based in Afghanistan conducted twelve other missions; according to the official, those operations captured or killed between fifteen and twenty targets. “Most of the missions take off and go left,” he said. “This one took off and went right.”

Minutes after hitting the ground, Mark and the other team members began streaming out the side doors of helo one. Mud sucked at their boots as they ran alongside a ten-foot-high wall that enclosed the animal pen. A three-man demolition unit hustled ahead to the pen’s closed metal gate, reached into bags containing explosives, and placed C-4 charges on the hinges. After a loud bang, the door fell open. The nine other SEALs rushed forward, ending up in an alleylike driveway with their backs to the house’s main entrance. They moved down the alley, silenced rifles pressed against their shoulders. Mark hung toward the rear as he established radio communications with the other team. At the end of the driveway, the Americans blew through yet another locked gate and stepped into a courtyard facing the guesthouse, where Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, lived with his wife and four children.

Three SEALs in front broke off to clear the guesthouse as the remaining nine blasted through another gate and entered an inner courtyard, which faced the main house. When the smaller unit rounded the corner to face the doors of the guesthouse, they spotted Kuwaiti running inside to warn his wife and children. The Americans’ night-vision goggles cast the scene in pixellated shades of emerald green. Kuwaiti, wearing a white shalwar kameez, had grabbed a weapon and was coming back outside when the SEALs opened fire and killed him.

There’s much more at the link. Highly recommended reading. You may also find these articles useful:

New Yorker – Who’s Who in the Osama bin Laden Raid

Wired online magazine – It’s Not Just Bin Laden; U.S. Commandos Raid Pakistan All the Time

Popular Mechanics – The Strategy Behind the Osama bin Laden Raid

All make interesting reading.

Peter

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