Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, which was depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down. Before the movie, however, Mark Bowden wrote a book titled Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. The book and the movie are available from your favorite retailer as well as from online digital retailers.
In response to the two bomb strikes, which killed four US Soldiers and injured seven more, President Clinton authorized a response from the United States. The force which was gathered, Task Force Ranger, deployed on August 22nd, 1993. The Battle of Mogadishu took place on October 3rd to 4th, 1993. The aim of the operation was to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s foreign minister Omar Salad Elmi and his top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale.
The reason for this blog post is to mark the 25th anniversary of the battle as well as to give ideas and inspiration to Airsofters about the kit that was worn by the US Army Rangers and 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force) during that time. The movie has inspired some kit builds in the airsoft world, but only lately have Airsofters been able to quite accurately replicate the kit that was used, especially by Delta. In this post I will go through my own work-in-progress kits for the Rangers and Delta operators, as well as give some pointers on the kit, which can prove to be useful. I will refer to the kit which was actually used during that time and not touch the movie in depth. While “screen accurate” kit (to use film terms) is also very cool, I will leave that subject to someone else to touch on.
Furthermore, this post is my own personal idea/representation of the two kits and does not necessarily represent directly the kit that was used. As always, if you are talking about anything that goes even close to re-enacting, it can turn into a really heated subject of discussion, where a lot misunderstandings can and will happen. Especially when talking about re-enacting and Airsoft together. Consider this as a disclaimer of sorts, and take this post with that in mind.
On another note, there are is a really good group on Facebook called TASK FORCE RANGER Impressions SFOD-D / RANGER / STS / DEVGRU if you are interested in building these kits and getting all the finer details worked out. I will also add a link to the group at the end of this post and also link to my other blog posts that might be of interest to you and relevant to the kits talked about here.
US ARMY RANGERS
Let’s begin with the gear I am most familiar with. According to reference images, the Rangers have been seen using a variety of equipment. I will only go through the kit that I presently have, since that is what I have. I have opted for 6 Color Desert BDU (the “chocolate chip” pattern), since it is accurate and my 3 Color Desert BDU is reserved for Delta.
As stated, I am using the 6 Color Desert pattern BDUs and my PASGT helmet also has the same pattern cover on it. The helmet has sun, wind, dust goggles (SWDG) on it, plus a helmet band. The goggles and helmet band are dummy corded into the helmet with paracord to prevent them from falling off.
The body armor I am using is the Ranger Body Armor (RBA), by Guarder. I have not been lucky enough to source and buy a real RBA as of yet, but that is on the list. Inside I have the dummy plates that came with the RBA, plus two 3kg weight plates on the front and back. The shape of the plates is not correct for the RBA plate pouches, however. I like to wear plates if I carry armor; call me crazy, but that is the way these are meant to be worn.
The load carrying system I am using is the regular old school ALICE webbing. In its current setup, I have two M16 magazine pouches on the belt, two canteen pouches, one first aid/compass pouch and one 9mm magazine pouch. I am also carrying a M9 holster (Bianchi) for my M92 Beretta made by Gun Heaven. Radio systems are currently missing, as I am waiting on a radio pouch for this setup. In both of the ammo pouches, I run lead weights, which increase the weight of this kit even more. The harness with full canteens sits around 9-10kg.
The pistol is, as I said, the M92 Beretta by Gun Heaven. It features realistic markings and the overall feel of the replica is good. The main weapon system is my custom built RO727 carbine. The outer parts are G&P and it has the black nylon sling, which is attached with paracord. Metal parts are taped.
ALTERNATE RANGER SETUP
After the initial release of this post, I have done some changes to the setup that was presented above. While that setup is also accurate for the time period, I decided to offer another setup which is different in some ways. Below is an image of said setup and an explanation about it.
Most of the kit is the same as it was in the above setup, but the LBE is different. The changes in this setup are the magazine pouches, which I now have three, instead of two. Two are reserved for magazines and the third (on the right hand side) is reserved as a general purpose pouch. A period correct black radio pouch has also been added, which carrier my radio. Rangers can be seen using this style radio pouch during Operation Gothic Serpent and after as well.
I have also added a buttpack to the setup, which increases my carrying capacity. Not necessarily needed, but again, can be spotted in some reference photos of the operation. My pistol has been removed, along with the magazine pouches for it. Another first aid pouch has been added to the mix as well. If you are interested in the contents of the pouches, I have made an updated post about my LBE. The only difference between this setup and the one discussed in the post is the radio pouch. Here I am using the model correct for Operation Gothic Serpent, and in the other post I am using the model which is correct for Ranger setups portraying Operation Just Cause in Panama.
This is by no means a comprehensive loadout. The boots I wear are either Desert Boots (modern, since I do not have the era correct ones) or Jungle Boots. Desert boots are more kosher for this kit, however.
1ST SPECIAL FORCES OPERATIONAL DETACHMENT – DELTA
This kit is more or less a work in progress, much like the Ranger kit I was talking about earlier. My current state of the Delta kit might pass the squint test, but it is not 100% accurate.
I am using the 3 Color Desert BDUs for this kit, as it was the choice for Delta operators during Operation Gothic Serpent. Some modifications are needed for the BDUs that you need to be aware of. I have taken the smaller chest pockets and sewed them on the sleeves of the jacket and added some velcro on them. In addition to this, the larger lower pockets of the jacket are moved up to the place of the smaller pockets. It is not rocket science, but if you are not comfortable with sewing, you can have it done at your local tailor, your better half or mother. The gloves are regular US aviator gloves.
The trousers are the regular 3 Color Desert ones, but I am using a custom made “rigger belt” as my trouser belt. This was apparently a very common thing for Delta operators and it is much more comfortable and low profile than the issued GI belt. Highly recommend this modification. You have use a seat harness for it like I did, or other similar stuff. Fastening is done with velcro. For boots, Desert boots are the most kosher choice.
For the cool factor, but not Airsoft use, you can also get some Oakley Razor Blade glasses. I am wearing a pair in the featured image. Be sure to get the correct model though!
The other belt in the picture is another custom made item from a seat harness. The buckle I have on it is not the correct style one and I need to replace it. On the belt, I have a repro AWS double pistol magazine pouch, a regular ALICE M16 pouch, canteen pouch and a M60 ammo pouch (not the correct one, this is too modern). Not attached to the belt, but pictured on the right, is a repro AWS pistol holster. Delta also used the Safariland 3004 holster, but sourcing one can be quite problematic.
As they were flying and transported around with MH-60 A/L Blackhawks and AH/MH-6 Little Birds, some kind of a security system had to be present. According to my research, they used a cargo strap/tie down lashing to make these and attached two US carabiners to secure it. Mine is a custom made repro, as I did not have these cargo straps at hand. Need to amend that in the near future. I have some OD tape on the carabiners as well.
The body armor pictured here below all the other gear is the TG Faust armor. Mine is a repro, as real ones are quite rare and can be very pricey. If you are on a budget, it is possible to get a PT Armor clone as well and modify it to make it look like a TG Faust. Passes the squint test on my book. This is a future project that I am planning on attempting and making a separate post about. Attached to the Faust is a large US flag. Inside the TG Faust I have soft armor inserts on both the front and the back. Hard plates are still missing, but are on the list for the kit. Below is an image of the correct plate style for the TG Faust, according to my research.
The chestrig is a AWS Strike rig, which again is a repro. Mine is not 100% correct for a few reasons. First of all, the original had 6 fastex clips as the Toy Soldier 3rd Gen AWS Strike rig has only 3. This can be easily fixed though, which I am planning on doing. Apparently, Toy Soldier is now making the “2nd Gen” AWS Strike as well, but I have no confirmation on this. Mine is also painted, which I have not seen images of Delta doing in Mogadishu. I originally used this chest rig for another loadout and it was painted for it. Attached to the left shoulder strap is a field dressing, which is held in place with a strip from a bicycle inner tyre. Inner tyre straps are awesome, use them!
The helmet is a Protec Classic cut skate helmet. This is a newer version, which differs from the era correct in shape and small details. The chin straps in the era correct helmet are connected with metal grommets and the shape is a little bit different. The foam padding is also either white/yellow or black/green. I replaced the foam on my helmet and painted the helmet black, but the grommets do not have holes in them. I also need to change the fastex clip on the strap, as the one it has is too modern. Again, this passes the squint test. Other items I am missing from the helmet are the SDU5/E Strobe on top of the helmet and the ANVIS 6 NVGs with the attachment and battery pack. I also have no comms for this setup. For those, you would need a MX-360 radio (quite obtainable if you are willing to search), TASC-1 headset, Setcom headset, U-94U/A PTT… Just to name a few. At the front of the helmet I again have the SWDGs, which are secured to the helmet with velcro strips. I have velcro on the sides and the back of the helmet.
The weapons I am using for this kit are the custom made G&P M723 carbine and the WE MEU. The M723 has the correct upper, with the A1 style rear sights and shell deflector. It can be quite hard to source the correct upper for this build, just to warn you. The replica also has a OPS Inc silencer by King Arms attached to it. The optic is a Vector Optics Typhoon, which is a good compromise between the real Aimpoint 3000 red dot that was commonplace during Operation Gothic Serpent. I would not dare take a real Aimpoint that has so much historical value to a game, but that is just me. The sling is the regular black nylon sling, which is attached to the replica with paracord and has all the metal parts taped over. On the handguard I have inner tyre strips so I can easily attach my pressure switch on it. You can use tape, I just prefer these strips. Did I already say how much I recommend them?
The WE MEU had its rubber grips changed over to wooden ones to make it more accurate for the era. The MEU has the longer beaver tail, custom sights and trigger as well as a custom hammer. This is apparently very very close to the 1911s that Delta used during the time period. The WE is not the only one you can use and I would recommend getting a Marui MEU if you can. A bit more expensive, but it is a Marui.
This post turned out to be quite long, especially for the Delta kit. This was to be expected, as it has more smaller nuances that need to be thought about. Both kits are work in progress and are not complete. They are “good enough” in my book at the moment, but both need work to be better. They pass the squint test, which is good for me, for now. Some choices I have made are personal ones and might not represent the era correct way of doing things. This is because using these kits in Airsoft games mandates some personal freedoms that are important to yours truly. Be that as it may, these are my two Gothic Serpent kits. I think they look cool for what they are and I hope I at least gave you some idea on how to start your own. Check out the links I mentioned during this post. I will add them here at the end as well for your reference. To conclude, here are some reference images from the actual operation.
For some hard to get kit on both of these gear setups, check out Squadron Sew Shop on Facebook.