An interview with a senior US Army helicopter pilot reveals some interesting perspectives on the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. Here's an extract.
When you first heard about the bin Laden raid, what were the biggest things that you thought could go wrong from a pilot’s point of view?
Well, when I looked at the distances. I’m somewhat familiar with that portion of Afghanistan, having spent quite a bit of time there. I figure they probably had to refuel and launch from one of these bases that’s right on the border. When you look at the distance to Islamabad, and then based on the reporting, it was about 30 miles north of that. Well, that’s about 150 to 170 nautical miles. If we just do a planning factor of 120 knots or 110 knots, it’s going to tell you, ‘wow, that was like a five-hour operation.’ So when you start thinking about a five-hour operation, in somebody else’s backyard, you don’t want anything to go wrong, because if anything goes wrong, it’s above the fold stuff in the Washington Post. So you’ve got to have second and third order of contingencies addressed, and we’re not even talking about taking enemy fire and getting shot down - we’re talking about penetrating the airspace, flying the mission profile, an airplane that runs into problems. So the contingency, if you have an aircraft go down, then you’ve always got to think back to Somalia. What happens when an aircraft goes down? It’s like a magnet for jihadists. And how quickly can I get a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) in there to secure it and get the folks out? And then what happens if somebody gets hurt?
. . .
The US got bin Laden in what has to be considered a phenomenally successful counterterrorism operation. You’ve had years of experience in Afghanistan. What do you think of continuing a counterinsurgency operation with the big success of counterterrorism at this point?
Bin Laden was the head of al-Qaeda. Our counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan is really focused on winning the people. So they’re separate and distinct. Now, if I was a mid- or a high- level insurgent, I would be aware that they just nailed bin Laden. Most of those folks who are operating in Afghanistan are already running tired and scared because similar forces have been hunting those guys down for the last few years. If you can separate the head from the body, it enables the conventional as well as the other forces that are operating on the ground to really protect the people.
There's more at the link. Interesting and recommended reading.