This Video Of A CH-47 Extracting Soldiers Off A Ridge Reminds Us Why The Chinook Rules

The big helicopter can execute a “pinnacle landing” maneuver that has proven to be invaluable in Afghanistan.

byTyler Rogoway|
Afghanistan photo


The H-47 Chinook is one incredible flying machine. As it closes in on the start of its seventh decade of service, the "Hooker" has never been more capable and the U.S. Army is slated to keep upgrading and operating the type for decades to come. But nowhere has the Chinook been more highly valued than on the harsh battlefield of Afghanistan. 

The Chinook's ability to carry large numbers of troops and materiel into 'hot and high' locations, and despite is ungainly fame, its ability to access personnel in precarious places, have been a godsend to troops fighting in America's longest war. Case in point, this awesome FLIR footage from an AH-64 Apache's TADS targeting system showing a Chinook plopping its butt on a narrow ridge-line to extract a large group of soldiers. The maneuver is called a "pinnacle landing" and it has proved to be an invaluable tactic during the 17 years of war in Southwest Asia. 

The video was taken during an operation in 2012. In it the Apache crew gives some play-by-play, noting in far more colorful terms that the angle of the Chinook's rear blades could be hazardous to the troops approaching the helicopter unless they duck. This is especially true considering the CH-47 is basically balancing on its rear gear and it could porpoise up or down at any given moment. Even the helicopter's ramp looks like it is only partially opened due to the steep angle of the helicopter. 

It looked like nearly 30 troops and their gear would end up boarding the CH-47. The Apache crew also repeatedly says that they need to hurry, so it seems that this exfiltration occurred during a fairly hostile situation. 

Pinnacle landings aren't all that rare in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. Pictures of these maneuvers have gone viral on the net and there are videos of them occurring under various combat circumstances. 

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Special operations and counter-terror units also leverage the tactic to quickly load and unload onto building rooftops.

One of the most iconic pictures from the war in Afghanistan is of a CH-47 making a pinnacle landing on a disheveled rooftop high up in the mountains to pick up some prisoners. Here is the pilot's account of that image. , DoD

The maneuver was also used 50 years ago in Vietnam, a war in which the Chinook originally received it reputation for a being fast, resilient, surprisingly maneuverable and incredibly useful.

Chinook executing a pinnacle landing at an outpost in Vietnam., Public Domain

A maritime variation of the maneuver called the "Delta Queen" is used to rapidly recover special operations teams in small boats. 

Youtube Gif

For highly experienced CH-47 pilots, pinnacle landings aren't that challenging under ideal circumstances, but the higher you get, and add in wind, the darkness of night, the threat of enemy action, and especially the angle of the surface in relation to the Chinook's rear blades, things can get very dicey fast. 

So once again, here's to the mighty and ultra versatile Chinook. Whether it be extracting troops off a ragged ridge-line, hauling away super-sized cargo, coughing-up Humvees from its cargo hold, whisking special operators in and out of hostile territory, Boeing's legendary design continues to be more valuable than ever. 

The U.S. Army is currently putting its Hooker fleet through an elaborate and long roadmap of upgrades, and the latest version of the tandem-rotor icon, the CH-47F, is in competition to supply Germany and Israel with their next heavy-lift multi-mission helicopters. 

But still, Afghanistan will be remembered as the Chinook's war, for both bitter and sweet reasons. Make sure to read all about its exploits Afghanistan in this special guest feature by Ed Darack, author of

The Final Mission Of Extortion 17.

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