Small Wars Journal

CH-47 Crash in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, Investigation Completed

The U.S. Central Command investigation into the Aug. 6, 2011, CH-47 crash in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, is complete. The investigation confirmed that the primary cause of the accident was an insurgent-fired rocket propelled grenade strike to the aft rotor blade as the helicopter approached its combat landing zone. The investigation determined that operational planning and execution were consistent with previous missions, and that the forces and capabilities were appropriate given the agility required to maintain pressure on insurgent networks. There was no evidence of a pre-planned ambush. An unclassified executive summary of the investigation is available on the CENTCOM website.


Dave Maxwell

Thu, 10/13/2011 - 10:37pm

And to follow up:

The unclassified but redacted report can be accessed through the link on the web page below. It will take you to the files that includes the each annex, exhibits and photos. Each have to be downloaded individually to be read or viewed. There is not a single file report. I cannot recall ever seeing such a comprehensive report released for such a high profile event in such a relatively short period of time. There is a lot of information in the report and will take some time to go through it all. But what I have looked at is, as I said, very comprehensive. I think also that this appears to be a "proactive release" (made up phrase) under the Freedom of Information Act seemingly anticipating the FOIA requests they will likely receive (if they have not already).

5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(2)(D) Records – Records released to the public, under the FOIA, that are or will likely become the subject of subsequent requests.

This is the actual link to the page with all the parts of the report. The photos are in the sub folders.…

But if the above link does not take you straight to it then try from the actual page at the link below.

CH-47 investigation results released
By U.S. Central Command
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (October 13, 2011) — United States Central Command has released the results of its investigation into the CH-47 helicopter crash in Tangi Valley, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, Aug. 6, that killed all 38 personnel onboard, including 30 U.S. and 8 Afghan service members.

The resulting investigation confirmed the crash was caused by an insurgent-fired rocket-propelled grenade striking the CH-47’s aft rotor-blade as the helicopter approached its landing zone. There was no evidence of a pre-planned ambush.

The investigation determined that the helicopter’s mission and tactics were consistent with previous missions, and that the forces and capabilities selected to execute this mission were appropriate given the agility required to maintain pressure on insurgent networks.

It further concluded that the Army aviators flying the mission were fully qualified to perform their required tasks, that the CH-47 helicopter involved was fully mission capable, and that the number of personnel on board was tactically sound and well within the helicopter’s technical specifications and capabilities.

The report concluded by praising the skill, valor and selflessness of those killed, and acknowledged their – and their families’ – commitment and sacrifice. This sentiment was echoed by USCENTCOM Commander General James Mattis, who directed the investigation to take place and appointed an investigating officer Aug. 7.

“This report reinforces my appreciation and unbounded admiration for the courage and skill continuously shown by our Special Operations Forces, conventional forces, and our partner forces from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, said Mattis. “I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the fallen during a mission made in defense of both our nations.”

He further pledged, “the ultimate sacrifice of the fallen, and the enduring loss and sacrifice of their loved ones, will be remembered by all of us who take this loss as a reason to focus even more strongly on our mission.”

The investigating officer was Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, Deputy Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. Colt led a team of multi-disciplinary subject matter experts to determine the facts and circumstances of the crash, its cause, and make recommendations to improve operations. The team relied on multiple sources, including interviews, logs, video, briefing materials, and inspection of aircraft wreckage to assemble a detailed sequence of events surrounding the CH-47’s crash.

Click here to read the full redacted version of the investigation report.…

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 10/13/2011 - 5:22am

The unclassified full report is supposed to be posted on the CENTCOM web site the of afternoon 13 OCT. A surprising amount of detail about SOF and TTPs in this report.   This will make for some interesting debate.  Note the investigation was a CENTCOM investigation and not a USSOCOM one.  But I do not think that this will satisfy those who will claim a lack of transparency because the investigating officer is a "SOF officer" (former member of 160th).  The anti-SOF people will have an especially difficult time with the summarized conclusion by the investiagting officer excerpted below.  From the information in the EXSUM I think it is a sound conclusion but some will not want to relegate this tragedy to the fog and friction of war and instead there will still be calls for a scapegoat by some pundits unfortunately.

"After conducting my investigation, I have determined that this mission, and the tactics and resources employed in its execution, were consistent with previous U.S. special operations missions and the strike forces selected to execute the mission were appropriate.  I also determined that the CH-47D was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fired by a Taliban fighter as the helicopter neared its landing zone."