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Army Night Stalkers 160th SOAR 2023

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) also referred to as the Night Stalkers, is the world’s premier special operations aviation unit. Specializing in transport, attack, and reconnaissance missions.

Army Night Stalkers are highly trained and ready to accomplish the very toughest missions in all environments anywhere in the world, day or night, with world-class precision.

Inside the Army Night Stalkers

  • What goes on inside this prestigious unit? 
  • What exactly do they do? 
  • Why are they called the Night Stalkers? 

All those questions will be answered as we shed a little light on the Army Night Stalkers. 

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)

What does nearly every successful mission by Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, and Green Berets have in common? 

They’ve most likely been transported to and from their missions by members of the 160th SOAR.

Born from the failure of Operation Eagle Claw in 1980, a highly capable unit with the ability to perform stealthy, short-notice special operations aviation missions was needed more than ever. 

They lived up to their purpose as, 31 years later, the Night Stalkers would assist in dealing a deadly blow to terrorism as they played an integral role in the neutralization of Osama bin Laden.

Combat Successes and the Origin of the Nickname

The 160th SOAR soldiers have pioneered the Army’s nighttime flying techniques because of their capability to strike undetected during the hours of darkness and their unprecedented combat successes; the unit earned its nickname as the Night stalkers. 

That moniker is well deserved, as many pilots in the 160th have more flight hours with night vision goggles than commercial airline pilots have in total in-flight hours.

Night Stalkers Expertise

Nightstalkers are experts in their craft and fly missions ranging from direct action to air assault, fast rope insertion, special boat support, overwater helocasting, and urban assault. 

Rain or shine, day or night, if there’s one thing you can count on, the Nightstalkers are able to fly in almost every element imaginable. 

As the 160th Soar modestly puts it, its official mission is to organize, equip, train resources, and employ army special operations aviation forces worldwide. But we can assure you that there’s much more to it than that.

Army Night Stalkers Missions

Direct ActionAchieving a direct impact on an enemy target
Air AssaultRapidly placing combat forces on an enemy target
Fast Rope InsertionQuick delivery of soldiers to a location
Special Boat SupportSupport for maritime special operations
Overwater HelocastingDeployment of small units into water from a low-flying helicopter
Urban AssaultEngaging enemy forces within a built-up or fortified area

Aircraft Employed by the 160th SOAR

Consisting of a regiment’s headquarters, four battalions, and a dedicated training company, the 160th SOAR is strategically armed with light, medium, and heavy helicopters that are all highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements. 

These helicopters are the MH-60 Blackhawk, MH-47 Chinook, and AH-6, or MH-6 Little Bird.

It doesn’t stop at helicopters. They also fly drones, which we’ll get into later. Virtually any mission you can think of that involves the Army Night Stalkers; you can bet that one of these helicopters would be in play. But why just three helicopters? 

Doesn’t that seem a little bit small for the world’s premier Special Operations Forces (SOF) aviation units? Not quite. Each of these helicopters is suited to accomplish multiple mission needs. Let us explain. 

MH-60 Blackhawk

The Blackhawk has been proven to be a very versatile airframe for the Army Nightstalkers. 

Depending on the necessity, it can be outfitted and modified with just the right bells and whistles for whatever the Nightstalkers need to get done, such as sensor suites, high-tech communications gear, refueling probes for longer missions, and infrared radar systems. 

Sounds like a lot, right? There’s more. They can even be converted to an attack variant where these bad boys are given hydro rocket pods, Hellfire and Stinger missiles, 30-millimeter M-230 chain guns, and 50-caliber Gatling guns for some serious shock and awe. 

Fun fact: the Army Night Stalkers suited up two Blackhawks to be virtually undetectable in Operation Neptune Spear. Unfortunately, one crashed during the raid, and because the technology they used in the helicopter was so advanced, they had to destroy it to not leave any traces.

MH 47 Chinook

As for the MH 47 Chinook, this mainstay in the 160th has been serving army aviation well, from Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond. Let’s just say this thing is a workhorse. 

  • It’s able to carry tons of cargo, fly long missions, and survive in the most austere conditions. 
  • They’re used in a heavy assault role, which mainly includes the insertion and extraction of SOAR.
  • They have played a major role in Afghanistan, as it was mainly the only helicopter capable of supporting Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the higher mountainous regions. 

160th SOAR Chinooks are suited up with various improvements to improve their fuel range sensors, and some are even given miniguns and belt-fed machine guns on either side of the fuselage.

AH Six or MH Six Little Bird

When it comes to the Little Birds, they provide a unique and highly capable platform for employing extremely lethal and accurate fires, as well as inserting small numbers of special operations forces into a variety of combat environments and special mission situations. 

Dubbed the Killer Eggs. The 160th currently has two variants, the AH Six and the MH Six. 

The main difference between the two is that the MH-6 is outfitted with outboard bench seats on both sides of the aircraft for personnel carriage, whereas the AH-6 is outfitted with miniguns, rocket pods, and missiles with a mission set revolving around light attack and light assault. 

These have been a mainstay in the industry for decades, offering a niche capability no other air platform can match. The little bird’s small size, agility, and speed make it the perfect aircraft for getting in and out of sticky situations.

Table 2: Primary Aircraft of the 160th Soar

MH 60 BlackhawkMulti-mission: transport, assault, and attack with modifications
MH 47 ChinookHeavy lifts, cargo, long missions, harsh conditions
AH Six or MH Six Little BirdLight assault, attack, rapid extraction or insertion

Use of Drones in the 160th SOAR

But don’t think that the 160th stops at helicopters; they’ve gotten into the drone game within the last decade. 

Although they’ve thrown a veil of secrecy over its operations, 160th SOAR has its Echo Company, which flies the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones.

These drones are out there doing the nation’s bidding in a ferocious way, and Echo Company is credited with neutralizing hundreds of enemy insurgents. 

Armed with up to four Hellfire missiles, these drones can pack a powerful punch. While it’s true that all the aircraft we mentioned are deadly effective and highly customized, when you put them in the hands of a 160th SOAR pilot, that’s where the real magic happens. 

In fact, they’re specifically designed to bring out the Army Night stalker’s full operational potential. 

The Night Stalker Pilots of the 160th SOAR

There’s a reason why Night Stalker pilots are entrusted with flying these multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment. 160th SOAR pilots aren’t your typical pilots. 

These badasses don’t just come from flight school and waltz on over to be a part of this elite unit. No, no. The Night Stalkers only take the best of the best.

In fact, candidates must have at least 1000 hours of flight time and 100 hours of flying with night vision goggles to be considered. 

So any SOAR pilot is already a seasoned, experienced pilot walking in the door. They’re either officers or warrant officers. But there are some enlisted pilots.

The 15 whiskey UAV operators are the ones flying the Gray Eagles and putting warheads on foreheads. 

But let’s be real here. There’s more to the 160th than just the pilots. In order to ensure mission success, the 160th has dedicated aircrews and support personnel. 

Below is a list of MOS the Night Stalkers accept.

Army Night Stalker MOS List
Army Night Stalker MOS List

As you can see, there’s a diverse background of specialties that are utilized for its operations. Don’t think all Night Stalkers are pilots or air crewmen.

You know the 160th only takes the best of the best. But it’s important to know what these highly capable soldiers must go through in order to have the honor of calling themselves Night Stalkers. So what does it take? 

Rigorous Selection Process: Green Platoon

Candidates are put through a rigorous selection process known as Green Platoon. 

The Green Platoon is essentially the filter that gets rid of anyone who doesn’t want to be there or can’t make the cut. 

Since there’s a wide array of MOS that have their place with the Night Stalkers, there are two different selection processes for officers and enlisted soldiers. 

Despite the differences, in around five weeks, Green Platoon teaches skills such as advanced first aid techniques, combative skills, land navigation, and weapons training. 

On top of that, all candidates must go through intense physical training (PT), which includes runs, rucks, long runs, and several other activities. 

What goes on here is no joke. The officer course boasts an attrition rate of 65% to 70%, and the enlisted version has one of 40%. 

After Green Platoon, candidates go their separate ways and receive follow-on training depending on their MOS; pilots will move on to learn how to excel in desert, mountain, urban, and maritime flying, air-to-air refueling, and seaburn operations.

During both nights and days, the enlisted soldiers will move on to training, such as maintaining the regiment’s aircraft or learning how to fly drones, depending on who goes where. 

The training each soldier receives after Green Platoon can last upwards of 28 weeks. So you know they’re getting the most out of their training, but don’t think the training stops at their accession pipeline.

Continuous Training and Refinement of Skills

A new Night Stalker arrives at a unit as a basic mission qualified. 

After a series of skills tests, qualifications, experience, leadership, and oral review boards lasting up to three years, the Nightstalker is designated fully mission qualified. 

In a nutshell, Nightstalkers are constantly training and refining their skills to ensure they are supporting the SOAR mission to the best of their ability. 

This mindset has enabled them to be the best of the best. They have been battle tested through the years and have consistently proven they have what it takes to make a major impact where needed. 

It’s no surprise that one of their mottos is Nightstalkers don’t quit. The road to becoming a night stalker is no easy feat. Be prepared to be tested and challenged at every step of the way. 

For those who are interested in joining or learning more about this prestigious community, GoArmysof gives you a broad strokes breakdown of what requirements you’ll need to have and exactly what the community is looking for. 

That is the down-and-dirty story of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  Thanks for reading.

George N.