According to recent reporting from Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, the details surrounding the failed CV-22 insertion into Bor, South Sudan in support of the evacuation of American citizens in December 2013 have been released.
The mission began “in the early hours of 21 December 2013, when three Hurlburt Field, FL-based CV-22 Ospreys belonging to the 8th Special Operations Squadron” launched a mission in order to evacuate American citizens from the onslaught of violence between antigovernment militants and government forces in the contested city of Bor, as SOFREP has previously reported.
After flying through three countries and covering a distance of 790 nautical miles, the three-ship of Ospreys arrived at their objective location, the United Nations compound (which SOFREP has previously covered when the compound was overrun in late 2013, resulting in the deaths of several UN peacekeepers), on time. Upon arrival in Bor, the Ospreys performed a reconnaissance overflight of the compound in order to “gather intelligence on ground activities”, which revealed no abnormal patterns of life or immediate threats.
However, while on initial approach to the UN compound, the formation “came under heavy fire from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms fire”, hitting the three aircraft an impressive 119 times. This barrage of gunfire and RPGs instantly caused “multiple system failures on each of the three Ospreys…[to include] damage to flight control systems, hydraulics, and fuel leaks.” It also resulted in the wounding of four special operations personnel, which SOFREP has confirmed to be Navy SEALs working with SEAL Team 3.
Upon immediately maneuvering the aircraft out of range of the various weapon systems engaging the formation, the formation commander conducted a damage assessment of systems and personnel. Three of the four wounded SEALs were found to be in critical condition, which led to the Ospreys flying immediately to Entebbe, Uganda, where they could receive the most immediate medical care.
While en-route to Entebbe for medical care, approximately 480 nautical miles away, the Osprey crews performed what life saving treatment they could, acquiring the “blood types of the wounded, and [also] drawing matching blood from personnel on board.” These actions were critical in extending the survivability of the wounded SEALs on board, and also ensured that immediate blood transfusions could be completed upon arrival in Uganda.
If that weren’t impressive enough, the Osprey crews were also required to coordinate multiple air-to-air refuelings en-route to Entebbe, due to the severity of the damage to the aircraft and multiple fuel leaks. It was the actions and achievements of the AFSOC crews during this mission that earned them “the 2013 Mackay Trophy, which is given by the US Air Force to the most meritorious flight of the year.”
While the original mission was aborted due to circumstances outside the crew’s control, the follow-on actions also speak volumes to the professionalism and dedication of the US Air Force and its continued effort to provide top-notch support in any environment, especially in hostile or dangerous ones.
It was originally reported that the Osprey formation came under fire from possible South Sudanese Army defectors, but given the extensive presence of both government and antigovernment forces in the area at the time, it is difficult to accurately determine. It is also important to note that a UN helicopter “had been shot down in the same area just the day before”, which significantly underscores the very real danger of the evacuation mission.
South Sudan, which is still embattled in ongoing violence that has killed over 100,000 people and displaced an approximate 1.1 million others since late 2013, remains just as dangerous as it did in December, with calls being made to the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against both parties. It remains to be seen whether or not South Sudan will find a respite from the violence, having experienced a painful time adjusting from its US-brokered split from Sudan in 2011.
For a refresher on SOFREP coverage regarding South Sudan, visit here.
The AFSOC press release can be found here.
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Feature image courtesy of breakingdefense.com
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