This incident took place on Monday (10 August), but has only been reported today. A UH-1 Huey assigned to the Air Force 1st Helicopter Squadron was fired at from the ground while on routine training near Manassas. The 1st Helicopter Squadron is based at Joint Base Andrews, and supports the helicopter movements of the president and other senior federal officials around the Washington, D.C. area.
The aircrew, flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet, recognized the helo had been struck by a round, and quickly made an emergency landing at Manassas Regional Airport. The event reportedly occurred just before 12:20 PM on Monday.
One aircrewman suffered a bleeding hand and was treated for his injury. A bullet was found lodged in the airframe.
The FBI is investigating.
It’s good, certainly, to handle such an incident without going into hysterics. But this is actually pretty darn big. Realistically, a bullet that hits an aircraft operating 1,000 feet above ground level isn’t a “stray.” Someone was apparently shooting at the Air Force helo, with a rifle that could range it at that altitude. That alone is a grave concern.
But it’s probable that the shooter recognized the presidential support squadron aircraft for what it was, and a better bet than not that that was the motive for shooting at it.
Anyone living in the area and/or following military air ops closely enough to recognize an Air Force Huey and shoot at it was probably well aware that the helo was on routine training, and the president wasn’t being moved around in the air space. (For comparison, when I was assigned duty stations in Norfolk, VA, we saw Air Force One there pretty frequently, getting in routine flight hours and doing touch-and-goes at what was then Langley AFB or at Naval Air Station Norfolk. We knew why the aircraft was there, and that it wasn’t heralding a presidential visit.)
So the point wasn’t to try to hit President Trump. He doesn’t ride in the Hueys anyway; he’s transported in Marine One (which is a different airframe. The newest Marine One is a “VH-60” White Hawk, a version of the UH-60 Black Hawk, but the older VH-3D Sea King is still in service. The presidential helos are made by Sikorsky; the support Hueys are, of course, by Bell).
But the danger to the aircrew is real. Even one bullet to the rotor, if it hit in just the right place, could get them all killed.
Such an attack is a particularly good way of setting things on edge: amplifying worry and concern about the operating environment for people whose job already admits of no errors. I know many Second Amendment supporters will recognize the potential such criminal behavior has for imperiling gun rights. But it goes beyond that, because military commanders aren’t stupid. They know perfectly well “all” the civilian small arms in a ring around D.C. could be prohibited or even confiscated, and there’d still be armed predators out there willing to shoot at Air Force helos just to fray everyone’s nerves.
The thing to remember about this event is that it isn’t just a matter of fraying nerves. The helo took a hit. The next one could be fatal.
It’s interesting but not conclusive that this happened the same day as the shooting outside the White House. What’s conclusive is that whoever shot at the Air Force Huey, it appears to have been an attack on the U.S. federal government. It must at least be treated as one – and frankly, I wouldn’t find alternative explanations credible.
Meanwhile, after Antifa spent more than a month attacking the U.S. federal courthouse in Portland night after night, it’s merely sane and logical to acknowledge that there are people in the U.S. right now prepared to mount attacks on federal government assets. It’s getting real, and although things may come in fits and starts, it’s almost certainly going to get worse.
If you see something, say something. Stay safe. Keep your powder dry. Guard your hearts. Pray for America.