In the early morning hours of March 4, 2002, military officers in Bagram, Afghanistan desperately radioed a Chinook helicopter headed for the snowcapped peak of Takur Ghar. On board were 21 men, deployed to rescue a team of Navy SEALS pinned down on the ridge dividing the Upper and Lower Shahikot valley. The message was urgent: Do not land on the peak. The mountaintop was under enemy control.
The rescue team never got the message. Just after daybreak, the Chinook crash-landed on the peak under heavy enemy fire and three men were killed in the ensuing firefight.
A decade later, Michael Kelly, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), happened to read a journalistic account of Operation Anaconda, one of the first major battles of the War in Afghanistan, and thought radio operators may have been thwarted by a little-known source of radio interference: plasma bubbles.
Now, Kelly and his colleagues provide evidence that plasma bubbles may have contributed to the communications outages during the battle of Takur Ghar and present a new computer model that could help predict the impact of such bubbles on future military operations. Their work has been accepted for publication in a journal of the American Geophysical Union called Space Weather.
Read the full press release here.