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United States Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC)
Founded 2011–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Special operations unit
Role Organizes, mans, trains, resources and equips special operations aviation units

3,533 personnel authorized:[1]

  • 3,473 military personnel
  • 60 civilian personnel
Part of United States Army Special Operations Command DUI.png US Army Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Motto(s) Volare Optimos (To Fly the Best)
Engagements Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation New Dawn
Operation Inherent Resolve
Website Official Website
BG John R. Evans[2]
Distinctive unit insignia
Unit beret flash
USASOAC Flash.png
Shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI)
U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command SSI (2013-2015).png
Former SSI (2011–2013)
U.S. Army Special Operations Command SSI (1989-2015).svg

The United States Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC) provides command and control, executive oversight, and resourcing of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) aviation assets and units in support of national security objectives. USASOAC is responsible for service and component interface; training, doctrine,and proponency for Army SOA; system integration and fleet modernization; aviation resource management; material readiness; program management; and ASCC oversight. USASOAC was established March 25, 2011 consisting of 135 headquarters soldiers and subordinate units totaling more than 3,300 personnel, include the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the USASOC Flight Company, the Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion, the Systems Integration Management Office, and the Technology Application Projects Office.[3] The first commander of USASOAC was Brig Gen. Clayton M.Hutmacher.[4]

Army Special Operations Aviation history[edit | edit source]

As reported on the USASOC official website:[5]

Special operations aviation traces its modern roots back to the early 1960s and the formation of special warfare aviation detachments (SWAD) and finally a task organized helicopter company as Army Special Forces prepared for Vietnam.

The 22nd SWAD activated in March 1962 at Fort Bragg, N.C: In June 1962 the unit was reorganized and redesignated as 22nd Aviation Detachment (Special Forces). The unit supported 5th Special Forces Group (SFG), 7th SFG, U.S. Army Special Warfare School, and the 1st and 13th Psychological Warfare Battalions. The detachment was inactivated in December 1963. The 23rd SWAD (Surveillance) organized in July 1962 and flew the OV-1. The unit deployed to the Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam in September 1962 to support I Corps and Special Forces with photographic intelligence.

On 7 October 1965, the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, Airmobile Light was activated at Fort Benning. By 9 June the following year, the newly formed company set up its headquarters inside the 5th SFG compound at Nha Trang Bay, Republic of Vietnam.

The unit's mission was to provide air movement of troops, supplies and equipment under the direct supervision of the commanding officer, 5th SFG. The 281st became the first organized special operations helicopter unit in the U.S. Army. Army historians consider the 281st to be the legacy unit for today's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), abbreviated as 160th SOAR(A). The unit earned decorations for Valor and Meritorious Service from the Army, Navy, and Republic of Vietnam.

In the years that followed, the individual SFGs had their own organic aviation detachment. These detachments usually consisted of 4 UH-1D helicopters, associated crewmen, and a limited maintenance capability.

As a result of the Desert One failed Iranian hostage rescue in April 1980, the Holloway Commission, chaired by the former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral James L. Holloway, mandated a re-organization of the nation’s special operations capabilities, including a dedicated Special Operations Aviation force.

The Army looked to the 101st Aviation Group at Fort Campbell, the air arm of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which had the most diverse operating experience of the service's helicopter units, and selected elements selected Charlie and Delta companies (UH-60) of the 158th Aviation Battalion, individual members of the 229th Aviation Battalion (OH-6), and Alpha company of the 159th Aviation Battalion (CH-47) to form the basis of the unit.

The chosen pilots immediately entered intensive training in night flying. Dubbed Task Force 160, the new unit was quickly recognized as the Army's premier night fighting aviation force, and its only Special Operations Aviation force. As pilots completed training in the fall of 1980, a second hostage rescue attempt, code named Operation Honey Badger, was planned for early 1981. It was called off when the hostages were released.

In October 1981, the unit was officially designated the 160th Aviation Battalion. The 160th first saw combat during 1983's Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada. In 1986, the unit was re-designated as the 160th Aviation Group (Airborne). The modern day 160th SOAR(A) was officially activated in June 1990.

As demand for highly-trained special operations aviation assets grew, the Regiment activated three Battalions, a separate detachment, and incorporated one Army National Guard Battalion. The three battalions replaced the separate aviation detachments at the SFGs. In July 2007, the regiment activated a fourth battalion to meet growing special operations forces requirements. Eventually 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions will be identically organized with two MH-47 companies, a MH-60 company, and a maintenance company.

In July 2010, a MQ-1C element from Fort Huachuca was assigned to USASOC. The element was rebranded with the USASOC patch and deployed to Afghanistan.[5] In 2013, Fort Campbell welcomed the MQ-1C special operations element as E Company, 160th SOAR(A).[6]

On 25 March 2011, USASOC created the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command to organize, man, train, resource, and equip ARSOA units to provide responsive, special operations aviation support to special operations forces and is designed as the USASOC aviation staff proponent.[5]

USASOAC units[edit | edit source]

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)[edit | edit source]

A 160th SOAR(A) MH-47 Chinook conducts water insertion training with MARSOC Marines

160thflash.png 160th SOAR emblem.svg

The 160th SOAR(A) has the mission to organize, equip, train, resource, and employ Army Special Operations Aviation (ARSOA) forces worldwide in support of contingency missions and combatant commanders. Known as "Night Stalkers," these soldiers are recognized for their proficiency in nighttime operations. They are highly trained and ready to accomplish the very toughest missions in all environments, anywhere in the world, day or night, with unparalleled precision. They employ highly modified MH-47 Chinook, MH-60 Black Hawk, and assault and attack configurations of MH-6 Little Bird helicopters[7] via four battalions, a headquarters company, and a training company that are spread out between Fort Campbell, Hunter Army Airfield, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

USASOC Flight Company (UFC)[edit | edit source]

UFC aircraft on display (from left to right: C-212, UV-20, and UH-60L), circa 2013

The UFC was activated in June 2013 by USASOAC and provides responsive fixed and rotary wing training support to USASOC, as well as key planner transport in support of contingency plans. The company was a detachment that began its unique mission in 1996. Its aircraft inventory includes UH-60L Black Hawks, C-212 Aviocars, C-27J Spartans, UV-20 Porters, and C-12C Hurons.[8][9]

Special Operations Training Battalion (SOATB)[edit | edit source]

SOATB conduct downed aircraft and rescue training at the Allison Aquatics Training Facility

SOATB conducts basic Army Special Operations Aviation individual training and provides education in order to produce crew members and support personnel with basic and advanced qualifications for the 160th SOAR(A). The unit averages 235 training days per year including 80 officer graduates, 325 enlisted graduates, and 10,500 flight hours. Originally called "Green Platoon," ad hoc training functions began in 1983. In 1988, the unit officially formed to centralize and standardize recruiting, assessment and training. In 1990 the mission scope expanded to all active and reserve components. Special Operations Aviation Training Company (SOATC) provisionally designated in 1992, and in 2010 officially re-designated as SOATB.[10]

Technology Applications Program Office (TAPO)[edit | edit source]

TAPO is responsible for equipping the soldiers of the 160th SOAR(A) with the most capable rotary wing aircraft in the world, facilitate the sustainment of 160th SOAR(A) highly modified and/or unique aircraft, responsible for life-cycle program management of the ARSOA fleet --involved from concept and refinement through disposal--, facilitate aircraft modernization for the ARSOA fleet, and manage the USASOC rotary wing aviation night vision device and advanced aircraft survivability equipment programs. TAPO was classified prior to 1997. After 1997, the unit moved from St Louis, MO (adjacent to Army Aviation and Missile Command) to Joint Base Langley–Eustis, where the Program Office is currently co-located with the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate.[11]

Systems Integration Management Office (SIMO)[edit | edit source]

SIMO is responsible for equipping the soldiers of the USASOAC Enterprise with the most capable rotary wing aircraft and mission systems in the world and facilitate the sustainment and improvement of USASOAC highly modified and/or unique aircraft and mission systems. SIMO processes new requirements, product design, platform integration, development, product fielding, fleet resource planning, product organization, product support, property management, incremental product improvements, and rapid technology injection off modernization cycle.[12]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/671462.pdf
  2. BG John R. Evans Jr., Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command Biographical Sketch, www.soc.mil, dated 7 July 2016, last accessed 17 July 2016
  3. Potter, Emily (16 April 2013). "USASOAC unveils new DUI". Fort Bragg, NC: United States Army Special Operations Command. http://www.soc.mil/UNS/Releases/2013/April/130416-01/130416-01.html. Retrieved 9 October 2016. 
  4. Brooks, Drew (10 June 2014). "U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command welcomes new leader". Fayetteville, NC. http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/u-s-army-special-operations-aviation-command-welcomes-new-leader/article_e073a8ad-001a-53da-9b73-75d8f7c3c1dd.html. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, Special Operations Aviation History, soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016
  6. Grey Eagle Company Joins 160th SOAR, defensetech.org, by Michael Hoffman, dated 12 December 2013, last accessed 9 October 2016
  7. 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016
  8. USASOC activates flight detachment, soc.mil, release number: 130605-01, dated 5 June 2013, last accessed 9 October 2016
  9. USASOC Flight Company (UFC), soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016
  10. Special Operations Training Battalion (SOATB), soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016
  11. Technology Applications Program Office (TAPO), soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016
  12. Systems Integration Management Office (SIMO), soc.mil, last accessed 9 October 2016

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