US military helicopter incident in Northeastern Syria leaves 22 troops injured

Maj. Jason Sweeney / US CENTCOM

A “helicopter mishap” involving the US military occurred in northeastern Syria, resulting in injuries to 22 service members, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said. 

The statement released on June 12, 2023, clarified that no enemy fire was reported at the time of the event. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation.  

Neither the model nor the branch of the helicopter was specified. US forces have used various types, including MH-60M Black Hawk, MH-47G Chinook, and AH-64E Apache, for operations in Syria. 

Due to the severity of the injuries, 10 soldiers were evacuated to higher care facilities outside the US CENTCOM area of responsibility, while the remaining 12 are due to receive treatment locally. 

While attacks on US personnel in Syria are relatively rare, prior to this accident, in March 2023, 23 US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries during strikes conducted by Iran-backed militants in Syria. On March 23, 2023, a coalition base in Hasakah, northeast Syria, was struck by a loitering munition. One US private contractor was killed, and five soldiers were injured in the attack.   

The US military presence in Syria is part of a broader counterterrorism mission initiated in 2015 to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIS) and counter Iranian-backed militias. Approximately 900 US military personnel and contractors are currently involved in this mission. 

During the first few months of 2023, the US Army experienced a series of three helicopter crashes, all transpiring within three months. 

  • In February 2023, two US soldiers were injured when an Apache helicopter crashed after takeoff at Talkeetna Airport (TKA) in Alaska.   
  • In March 2023, nine US soldiers were killed in the collision of two Blackhawk helicopters during a routine training mission. 
  • In April 2023, two US Army Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters collided in mid-air and crashed near Fairbanks, Alaska. Three crewmembers were killed, a fourth sustained serious injuries. 

The crashes led the US Army to order a 24-hour stand-down for all active-duty units by May 31, 2023. 

“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand-down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in a statement announcing the stand-down. 

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