Delta Force Operations and clandestine operations
The majority of the operations assigned to Delta are classified and may never be known to the public. However, details of some operations have become public knowledge. There have been many occasions that Delta have been put on standby and operational plans developed but the unit was stood down for various reasons. Known operations and deployments include:
- 1 Operation Eagle Claw
- 2 Central American operations
- 3 Invasion of Grenada
- 4 Aeropostal Flight 252
- 5 Operation Round Bottle
- 6 Operation Heavy Shadow
- 7 Panama
- 8 Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm
- 9 Operation Gothic Serpent
- 10 Operation Uphold Democracy
- 11 Counter-terrorist training
- 12 Seattle WTO
- 13 Operation Enduring Freedom
- 14 Operation Iraqi Freedom
- 15 Objective Medford
- 16 2012 Benghazi Attack
- 17 Capture of Abu Anas al-Liby
- 18 References
- 19 See also
Operation Eagle Claw
Delta's very first tasking began the night after they successfully completed their operational assessment on 4 November 1979 when Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Delta was immediately tasked to rescue the hostages and began training on storming the embassy with a compound mock-up built by military combat engineers at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, while putting together a complex multi-stage rescue operation involving a rigid schedule and demanding helicopter night-flying skills using first-generation night vision goggles. The rescue force was to be inserted by air force special operations C-130s at night to a remote location in the desert outside Tehran called Desert One, and meet up with a group of marine RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, flown in from the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier staged nearby in the Indian Ocean. The helicopters would then be refueled on the ground at Desert One by refueling specialists using specially-designed fuel bladders inside the C-130s. The refueled helicopters and the rescue force (composed of Delta and Rangers) would then fly to a hidden staging location outside Tehran and hide until the next evening. On the evening of the rescue, Delta would drive to the embassy compound using pre-staged trucks, assault the compound and rescue the hostages, and take them across the street to a soccer stadium where the helicopters would have landed to extract them and take them to a nearby airfield which the Rangers would have assaulted and captured. C-141s would then extract the entire rescue force with hostages and the helicopters would be destroyed and left behind.
The helicopters caused the cancellation of the mission at Desert One, when enough helicopters were lost from attrition due to sandstorms, pilot fatigue, and failed hydraulics that the on-site commanders acknowledged helicopter numbers were below the required minimum for that stage to go forward and recommended to President Carter that the mission be canceled, which he did. As the entire rescue force was leaving Desert One, one of the helicopters crashed into a U.S. Air Force special operations C-130 and in the ensuing explosion and panic the helicopters were abandoned en masse leaving unauthorized mission plans which fell into Iranian hands, ruining any chance of a possible second covert rescue attempt following a brief regrouping period.
Central American operations
Delta has seen action extensively in Central America, fighting the Salvadoran revolutionary group Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and assisting the Central Intelligence Agency-funded Contras in Nicaragua.
Invasion of Grenada
A second Delta mission launched in the early daylight hours of the first day of Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada was to assault Richmond Hill Prison and rescue the political prisoners being held there. Built on the remains of an old eighteenth-century fort, the prison cannot be approached by foot from three sides except through dense jungle growing on the steep mountainside; the fourth side is approachable by a narrow neck of road with high trees running along it. The prison offers no place for a helicopter assault force to land. Richmond Hill forms one side of a steep valley. Across and above the valley, on a higher peak, is another old fort, Fort Frederic, which housed a Grenadian garrison. From Fort Frederic, the garrison easily commanded the slopes and floor of the ravine below with small arms and machine gun fire. It was into this valley and under the guns of the Grenadian garrison that the helicopters of Delta Force flew at 6:30 that morning.
The helicopters of Task Force 160 flew into the valley and turned their noses toward the prison. Unable to land, the Delta raiders began to rappel down ropes dragging from the doors of the helicopters. Suddenly, as men swung wildly from the rappelling ropes, the helicopters were caught in a cross-fire from the front, as forces from the prison opened fire; and more devastatingly, from behind, as enemy forces in Fort Frederic rained heavy small arms and machine gun fire down from above. According to eyewitness accounts by Grenadian civilians, a number of helicopters that could, flew out of the valley. In at least one instance, a helicopter pilot turned back without orders and refused to fly into the assault. Charges of cowardice were filed against the Nightstalker pilot by members of Delta who wanted to be inserted, but were later dropped.
Aeropostal Flight 252
On 29 July 1984 Aeropostal Flight 252 from Caracas to the island of Curaçao was hijacked. Two days later, the DC-9 was stormed by Venezuelan commandos, who killed the hijackers. Delta Force provided support during the ordeal.
Operation Round Bottle
Delta planned an operation for three teams to go into Beirut, Lebanon to rescue Westerners held by Hezbollah, but the action was terminated when negotiations appeared to promise to deliver the hostages in exchange for arms. The operation was ultimately aborted in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Times story that revealed the Iran–Contra affair.
Operation Heavy Shadow
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2012)|
In his book Killing Pablo, Mark Bowden suggests that a Delta Force sniper may have killed Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. There is no hard evidence of this though and credit is generally attributed to Colombian security forces particularly the Search Bloc.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2012)|
Before Operation Just Cause by US forces took place, there were key operations that were tasked to Special Operations Forces. Operation Acid Gambit was an operation tasked to Delta to rescue and recover Kurt Muse held captive in Carcel Modelo, a prison in Panama City. Another important operation that was assigned to Delta was Operation Nifty Package, the apprehension of General Manuel Antonio Noriega.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm
Delta was deployed during Desert Storm to the region and tasked with a number of responsibilities. These include supporting regular army units that were providing close protection detail for General Norman Schwarzkopf in Saudi Arabia. Army relations' officers tried to play down Schwarzkopf's growing number of bodyguards. Delta was tasked with hunting for SCUD missiles alongside the British Special Air Service and other coalition special forces.
Operation Gothic Serpent
They were tasked with securing several of Mohammed Farah Aidid's top lieutenants, as well as a few other targets of high value. The mission was compromised after two MH-60L Blackhawk helicopters were shot down by RPGs. This resulted in an ongoing battle and led to the death of five Delta operators (a sixth was killed by mortar fire some days later), six Rangers, five army aviation crew, and two 10th Mountain Division soldiers. Estimates of Somali deaths range from 133 by an Aidid sector commander to an estimate of 1500 to 2000 by the US Ambassador to Somalia. In 1999, writer Mark Bowden published the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, which chronicles the events that surrounded 3 October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. The book, in a short brief, relates Delta Force's involvement in the operations that occurred before the events leading to the battle. The book was turned into a film by director Ridley Scott in 2001.
Operation Uphold Democracy
1994 Invasion of Haiti
Operation Enduring Freedom
Delta Force was involved in the offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. Delta Force has formed the core of the special strike unit which has been hunting High Value Target (HVT) individuals like Osama Bin Laden and other key al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership since October 2001, the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. One such operation was an airborne assault supported by the 75th Ranger Regiment on Mullah Mohammed Omar's headquarters at a Kandahar airstrip. Although Delta Force's mission was a failure in capturing Mohammed Omar, the Rangers had captured a vital strategic airstrip. The strike force has been variously designated Task Force Sword, Task Force 11, Task Force 20, Task Force 121, Task Force 145 and Task Force 6-26. Delta Force have increased operations in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. "The Navy’s SEAL Team 6, sometimes called Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU; the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force; the 75th Ranger Regiment; the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment; the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron; plus elements from other even more secret units and intelligence organizations" has killed or captured more than 2,000 enemy insurgents in Afghanistan against the Haqqani network, which is a strong faction of the Taliban.
Operation Iraqi Freedom
One of several operations in which Delta Force operators are thought to have played important roles was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They allegedly entered Baghdad in advance and undercover. Their tasks included guiding air strikes, and building networks of informants while eavesdropping on and sabotaging Iraqi communication lines. They were instrumental in Operation Phantom Fury in April 2004 when they were attached to USMC companies, usually as snipers.
Delta was present in the siege in Mosul where Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed, and were involved in the hunt and eventual capture of Saddam Hussein. It was a task force consisting of a Delta Force troop and a Ranger platoon that captured Saddam Hussein. Delta was also on the ground north of Baquba on 7 June 2006 surveilling a compound where Al-Zarqawi had been staying. After a long manhunt, Delta had Zarqawi in their sights and had called in an airstrike.
On 8 June 2004 Delta Force's A Squadron along with Army's 160th SOAR (Night Stalkers) carried out a raid to save foreign workers at a compound near Ramadi. The kidnappers were caught off guard and surrendered immediately. The mission was a complete success.
2012 Benghazi Attack
During the 2012 Benghazi attack two Delta Force operators along with five CIA personnel accompanied Glen Doherty to aid the besieged Benghazi Embassy compound, after commandeering a small jet in Tripoli by paying the pilots $30,000 and forcing them to fly the team to Benghazi. After fierce fighting, the rescue team including the two Delta operators assisted in evacuating the surviving diplomatic staff to the main Embassy in Tripoli. For their courage and bravery, one of the Delta Operators, Master Sergeant David R. Halbruner, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Capture of Abu Anas al-Liby
Abu Anas al-Liby was arrested in Tripoli, Libya on 5 October 2013 by Delta with the assistance of FBI agents, CIA officers, and most likely, Intelligence Support Activity SIGINT teams. He was arrested and removed from Libya.
- Haney, Eric L. (2002). Inside Delta Force. New York: Delacorte Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-0-385-33603-1.
- Cole, Ronald H. (1997). Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada 12 October – 2 November 1983. Joint History Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Washington, DC. p. 62.
- Castro, Janice; Thomas A. Sancton; Bernard Diederich (13 August 1984). "Terrorism: Failed Security". TIME.
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- Smith, Michael (6 March 2007). Killer Elite. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-36272-2.
- "Interviews — Captain Haad | Ambush in Mogadishu | FRONTLINE". PBS. 3 October 1993. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- "Interviews — Ambassador Robert Oakley | Ambush in Mogadishu | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Bowden, Mark (1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Berkeley: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-738-0
- John Pike (16 January 2003). "Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- Rick Anderson (22 December 1999). "News: Delta's down with it". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
- "September 2003 Engineer Update". hq.usace.army.mil.[dead link]
- Norton-Taylor, Richard; Borger, Julian; Harding, Luke (27 November 2001). "Revealed: how bungled US raid came close to disaster". The Guardian (London).
- "JSOC task force battles Haqqani militants". Retrieved 30 October 2010.
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- Dorell, Oren; Zoroya, Gregg (9 November 2006). "Battle for Fallujah". USA Today.
- MacLeod, Scott; Powell, Bill (11 June 2006). "Zarqawi's Last Dinner Party". Time.
- "Hostage Rescue — Iraq". Deltaforce.americanspecialops.com. 8 June 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2012.