Army’s Secret Flights Over Washington Now an ‘Enduring’ Mission
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Army’s Secret Flights Over Washington Now an ‘Enduring’ Mission

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Army has made permanent a classified aviation mission over Washington and disclosed that it’s aimed at responding to a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

The mysterious operation -- which generated complaints from local residents for excess noise at night -- was mentioned in a Pentagon request to Congress in July asking for approval to shift fiscal 2019 funds to different purposes. The request included providing $1.55 million for aircraft maintenance, air crews and travel in support of an “emerging classified flight mission.”

“Without additional funding, the Army will not be able to perform this classified mission,” the Defense Department said. At the time, the Army told Bloomberg News, which disclosed the operation, that the mission’s duration “is undetermined.”

Congress approved the $1.55 million shift in late September in part to modify a specialized “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just outside Washington.

“The facilities are currently undergoing renovation,” for what’s now “an enduring mission,” said Colonel Sunset Belinsky, a spokeswoman for the Army Military District of Washington, in an email statement.

While the details are classified, the operation supports the military’s National Capitol Region mission “to be prepared to respond to a natural or manmade disaster,” Belinsky said.

The money initially supported the flying of 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, largely at night, which generated complaints from local residents, including in Northern Virginia where the Pentagon is based.

Democrat Representative Don Beyer of northern Virginia said earlier this year he heard from residents complaining about noise from late night helicopter flights. After Bloomberg disclosed the operation in July, Beyer met with Brigadier General Omar Jones, the commander of the Military District of Washington.

“They agreed to work together to seek ways to mitigate helicopter noise for Northern Virginia,” Beyer’s office said in a statement.

Asked if the forces taking part in the ongoing mission include specialized commando units of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command -- such as the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s Seal Team Six or the Army’s separate 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment --- Belinsky said only that forces may come from active and reserve units.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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