Yesterday, with the end of the fiscal year, marked the last day of formal operations of Air Force Special Operations Command’s MH-53 helicopter fleet after about 40 years of service. The last six Pave Lows in use completed their final combat missions in Southwest Asia on Sept. 27, an AFSOC spokeswoman told the Daily Report yesterday. They are now being transported back to the US. AFSOC has been incrementally retiring the MH-53s. On Sept. 5, for example, an MH-53 arrived at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Fla., for permanent static display there. The first flight of the MH-53 occurred in March 1967. The Pave Low saw service in Vietnam, including the daring Son Tay raid to free US POWs in 1970. (The last of the five Son Tay Pave Lows will be on display at the National Museum of the Air Force.) The Air Force lost six MH-53s after 9/11 supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of them—in April 2004 in Iraq—as a result of enemy fire. The 1st Special Operations Wing will hold a formal MH-53 retirement ceremony on Oct. 16 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., wing spokeswoman SSgt. Mareshah Haynes told the Daily Report yesterday.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.