In the 1970’s a new form of warfare was emerging: international terrorism. Two counter-terrorist missions that America initially found itself unable to cope with were situations in which a terrorist barricaded himself inside a structure with hostages or when hostages were taken inside a tubular vehicle such as an airplane. While the Army’s premier counter-terrorist unit, Delta Force, was being stood up, another Special Forces unit called Blue Light was created by 5th Special Forces Group to fill the gap until Colonel Charlie Beckwith had Delta ready to go.
“At the time, the thing everyone was concerned with was hijacked airplanes and barricaded hostage situations,” a member of Blue Light said. These were tubular targets, which include buses, the type that the National Command Authorities (POTUS and SECDEF) were the most concerned about. “Because we were so focused in Blue Light on the most likely primary threat, tubular targets and hostage barricade, that we didn’t get into the other mission profiles.”
Blue Light participated in a number of major training exercises that were run by the REDCOM staff in conjunction with the Ranger battalions. These were called CT-EDREs (Counter Terrorism- Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises). These training missions took place across America, some of them including multiple objectives within the target area, but all of them including an aircraft takedown because this was the biggest terrorist threat facing America at the time—or at least this was the perception of policy-makers.
The basic template used was for a Ranger battalion to static-line parachute into the area of operations and silently form a security cordon around the target aircraft. Then, a Blue Light team would conduct a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) free-fall jump and land inside the security perimeter created by the Rangers.