One of our readers reached out to me tonight – September 1st, 2020 – to let me know that he saw a formation of four MH-6 Little Birds in close formation across Interstate 5 near downtown Los Angeles flew. I joked at the time that it will only be a matter of hours before people freak out about the urban training surgeries they are likely to be doing. Just like clockwork, the social media posts appeared a few hours after sunset. People couldn't understand what they were seeing and how can you blame them? It is certainly worrying to watch darkened little helicopters, most of which usually run without lights, go low over rooftops, land on tall buildings and take off quickly, and even soar down the city streets – any action film will tell you that. The reality, however, is that only the best helicopter pilots in the world are tasked with the toughest missions to wage future wars and respond to terrorist incidents in what the Pentagon has called "megacities".
There is no synthetic field that offers a suitable training substitute for such a demanding combat environment. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), better known as the Night Stalkers, leaps across the United States to major cities that offer this type of training year round. Often times, Navy SEALs, Rangers, MARSOC, and Delta Force operators come, traditionally charged with carrying into battle. Sometimes they even work with direct action teams from federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI-lauded Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and people from the intelligence community. This type of military urban terrain (MOUT) operation is exactly what people are seeing in downtown Los Angeles tonight.
Check out the videos below:
It was only a year and a half ago that the 160th SOAR brought their tricked MH-6 Little Birds and a couple of MH-60 Black Hawks to the City of Angels for a performance like we had never seen before. They got into parking lots together, literally flew through the city streets and "attacked" a government building in Long Beach, resulting in this spectacular picture. It is common for little or no warning to the public to begin these exercises, whatever causes everything from great concern to fancy conspiracy theories. The reality is that there is no mystery, it's all just part of the regular training of America's most elite helicopter crews and the special operators who take them from New York to Denver to Portland from New York via Miami.
That first night of operation, the MH-6 can be seen whizzing through downtown Los Angeles, landing and taking off from the top of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) building. Typically four MH-6s fly in close formation from place to place at night with only the lead helicopter on. The crews wear night vision goggles and use their advanced electronics to navigate precisely as a division. This is really spectacular to see in person. It is only when you are among them that you realize that there are actually four helicopters there, not one. Once they arrive in an operational area, they appear to be a force many times their actual size as they fly through a city for hours and drop off and pick up on various rooftops and even Skyrise ledges. The night bends the public's senses and perceptions and makes the whole thing even more eerie from the viewer's point of view.
Obviously, given current developments in the country and the focus on law enforcement and surveillance, the Night Stalkers Little Birds are likely to draw even more hysteria than usual from an uninformed public. We have to see how everything works out.
We will keep you updated on the Night Stalker's recent visit to Los Angeles as the exercise expands.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com