An unconfirmed photo apparently showing Taliban forces flying a Black Hawk helicopter was posted on Reddit earlier today. A quick reverse image search on Google shows that the photo has not been posted before, making it possible that the copter truly is being piloted by Taliban members.
The photo was posted with the caption, “The Taliban managed to get one of the Blackhawks to fly upward this time and decided to hang a guy below it.”
A separate tweet includes video showing the helicopter in action, as a person dangles underneath of it. Many of the initial responses to the photo assumed that the Taliban had lynched someone from the helicopter.
Upon closer inspection, it appears that the person hanging underneath the copter was Special Patrol Insertion Extraction (SPIE) rigging instead.
— Jahid Jalal -جاهد جلال (@A_Jahid_Jalal) August 30, 2021
This event follows extensive reporting on the Taliban’s acquisition of several Black Hawks left behind, during the rapid increase of U.S. withdrawal efforts in mid-August. Besides helicopters, the Taliban also managed to procure millions of dollars worth of abandoned equipment, such as weapons and other vehicles.
More heli captured by Taliban near Ghazni. On black hawk it looks like some of avionics were taken out. It probably doesn’t work. Although MD 530 might work. Since AAF pilots defected, they can fly them. It obviously doesn’t have its rotors on,but those can easily be replaced. pic.twitter.com/y0net4BVqj
— Su-57 5th Gen Fighter (@5thSu) August 14, 2021
Capable Black Hawk pilots?
The most troublesome part of all this is that the Taliban previously had no way to pilot their new helicopters. In fact, the Taliban’s incapacity for operating aircraft has become somewhat of a stereotype at this point.
In an Aug. 16 interview with DefenseNews, Air Combat Command leader Gen. Mark Kelly commented on the likelihood of the Taliban being able to operate the copters. Gen. Kelly said, “The Taliban aren’t trained pilots capable of safely flying the aircraft.”
Backing-up on that statement slightly, Kelly admitted that “They may actually be able to get it airborne, but they’d probably be more dangerous to their own wellbeing than they would [be] to people on the ground.”
Despite all of the conjecture, it appears that the Taliban has in fact found capable pilots, and that they’re already beginning to train them.