Warplanes: May 14, 2004

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American commandos and Special Forces have their own air force; the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. With 1,600 personnel and over a hundred manned and unmanned aircraft, the Night Stalkers have made themselves so useful that the army (to which the 160th belongs) is doubling the size of the unit. This is being done by adding additional battalions to the regiment. A fourth battalion is being raised now, and it, and its 833 troops, will be stationed on the West Coast. By 2006, the 160th will have over 3,000 personnel. Over a billion dollars is being spent on this expansion. 

The Night Stalkers are so named because their helicopters are equipped for night flying, and the crews spend a lot of time training at night. The pilots of the 160th are also expert at long range operations (the larger choppers can refuel in the air). The helicopters doing this are the MH-47D Chinooks, of which the 160th currently has 37. These will be upgraded to the MH-47G, and another 50 will be purchased. More MH-60 Black Hawks will also be bought. 

The new equipment on the MH-47G includes a radar that shows terrain below and allows safer flight in all weather and at night. New cockpit controls and displays that reduce pilot workload and make it easier to keep on top of things. A new and improved forward-looking infrared radar (FLIR ). A 7.62mm six barreled machine-gun (a Gatling gun type) that can fire up to 66 rounds a second. The MH-47G has structural and equipment improvements that increase chances of surviving attack or a crash. There are also larger fuel tanks.

 


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