Helicopter-Borne Commandos ‘Raid’ Yacht In Newport Beach Harbor For Charity

An unusual special operations demonstration took place last week in Newport, California, involving some pretty aggressive flying and a commando raid on a private yacht. 

Onlookers could have been forgiven for thinking that the event, which took place on October 14 right in Newport Beach’s Marina, might have been a stunt for an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster or even some kind of U.S. military exercise. As The War Zone has previously reported, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has performed similar combat demonstrations in the past at Tampa Harbor, Florida as part of the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) that occurs nearby annually.   

When video of the ‘raid’ turned up in our social media feeds, we were taken aback by it as it didn’t seem to be a U.S. military operation, but also there were no signs of it being filmed for Hollywood production. The sight of an aerial ship boarding operation via military-style rappelling going down at a densely populated marina isn’t something you’d necessarily expect to see. Arguably even more surprising were the highly aggressive flying techniques on display during the demonstration, including low-level, high-speed flying near the boat all in a relatively ‘confined’ space. It should come as little surprise that the experienced stunt and aerial film pilot Fred North was the one in control of the helicopter during the demonstration. Readers can learn more about North in The War Zone’s existing reports.

Footage of the display was captured by several onlookers at the Marina, including the following five-minute video posted to YouTube by the user Your Saltwater Guide.

Obviously, something like this happening in such a highly trafficked, not to mention affluent, area would draw a lot of questions. As it turns out, the demonstration was organized for guests attending a fundraising dinner aboard a luxury yacht in aid of the SEAL Future Foundation (SFF), a charitable organization designed to help veteran Navy SEALS navigate the challenges of reintegrating back into civilian life after their military service comes to an end.

According to Paul Thoma, SFF’s Executive Director, the organization aims to help veteran SEALS achieve “a successful personal and professional transition” into civilian life by providing career development and educational programs, along with wellness, mental health, and family well-being services.  

In the video, we see a helicopter – an AS350 B3E registered to Hollywood AStar, a private company that hires out its AS350 for aerial work in the entertainment industry – hovering above the rear deck of the luxury yacht Chiron, on which the fundraiser took place. Two personnel rappelling down to the yacht’s deck as the helicopter maintains its position. The AS350 proceeds to lift as the two individuals, equipped with what appear to be assault rifles, begin sweeping the sides of the vessel. The individuals also supposedly performed an internal sweep of the yacht after landing, although this was not captured on film.  

Still of the aerial rappelling underway. Erkia A/Your Saltwater Guide via YouTube.
An image of the initial rappelling captured aboard Chiron. Photo credit Active Crisis Consulting.

Then, a third individual begins to maneuver out of the helicopter, dangling in the air as the aircraft slowly descends. Displaying amazing levels of control, North safely allows the individual to lower themselves onto the yacht’s rear deck. 

Still of the third aerial rappelling. Erkia A/Your Saltwater Guide via YouTube.

If this wasn’t impressive enough, North then begins circling Chiron before performing a slow descent down to the yacht’s bow deck – maneuvering the helicopter close enough to the yacht that two individuals were able to casually hop aboard while the aircraft was still hovering. After dropping off the two individuals, the AS350 returns to circling the yacht in a very aggressive manner. 

The AS350 hovering above Chiron‘s front deck. Erkia A/Your Saltwater Guide via YouTube.

Shorter clips, including footage of the initial rappelling and the helicopter circling the yacht, were also posted to YouTube by the same user. Below, a video of the AS350’s final descent was captured by an individual from a different vantage point at the Marina. 

Active Crisis Consulting (ACC) – a veteran-owned security solutions company whose current Managing Director, Neil McLean, is a retired Navy SEAL – says that it sent members of its Special Tactics Training Team (STTT) to execute the exercise for the fundraiser.

According to ACC’s website, STTT members provide high-quality special tactics training to U.S. government and U.S. agency clients (alongside foreign governments and agencies) across a range of areas – including executive protection, explosives training, as well as land, air, and maritime operations.

Speaking to The War Zone, McLean confirmed that no active-duty SEALs were involved with the demonstration and that three of the four operators were contractors with ACC. McLean also noted that the three contractors affiliated with ACC normally train law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. in close-quarters combat (CQC) and hostage rescue operations.

While the event was undoubtedly a spectacle for those at the Marina to behold — it must have been like being dumped into their own live action movie — it was also an eye-catching way of promoting the charitable work of SFF and raising funds in the process.

All told, as McLean told The War Zone, the fundraising dinner generated $1 million in donations to support SFF’s mission. 

Contact the author: oliver@thewarzone.com

Oliver Parken Avatar

Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent's Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone's military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.