Just what was the mystery US stealth-copter?
Details of the ‘stealth’ helicopter involved in the US operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden are beginning to be pieced together.
Jerry Gunner - 5-May-2011
UH-60 Black Hawk, similar to the S-70 airframe.
May 6: Many would say the US military does not lack courage and audacity, and that coupled with superb technology frequently gives it the edge when it comes to offensive operations. The Americans can claim to be a bit unlucky though - it is only because of this bad luck that the world now knows about - or at least knows of the existence of - a secret ‘stealth’ helicopter that crashed during the course of Operation Geronimo to capture or kill bin Laden on May 2 in at his safe house in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan.
First reports indicated that a military helicopter involved in the mission, reported as a Black Hawk, was destroyed by the Navy Seals involved after it suffered a technical malfunction. This seemed odd, because what’s so secret about an H-60, even one belonging to a special forces outfit like the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment?
Pakistan is of course a ‘friendly’ nation; surely the authorities there could be trusted with sensitive American technology? Then we saw the pictures - and we were none the wiser. All that remained in any way identifiable was what appeared to be the tail-rotor section of a helicopter - but not of any helicopter seen before. It appears that the ‘technical malfunction’ was caused when the helicopter was landed with its tail rotor protruding over the wall surrounding bin Laden’s villa, causing it to crash. Everything inside the compound had indeed been destroyed most efficiently.
In the images released so far there is nothing which even hints at the fact that it was a helicopter that was burned, but it would appear that the tail assembly had fallen over the other side of the wall and was spared the fiery destruction wrought on the rest of the airframe. What remained appears to be the rear horizontal forward-pointing stabilisers and a rotor hub assembly with fragments of what might be a fenestron-type tail. The stabilisers and vertical fin were painted in the high silver content paint effect used by certain F-16s and V-22s, which is said to be designed to reduce the infra-red signature, and there were no visible cracks between panels as they seemed to have been filled in with a putty type sealant.
These features might all have been designed to reduce the radar cross-section of the aircraft and make it harder to detect. One of the problems with making a helicopter stealthy is all the moving parts on the outside of the machine. Not just the rotors, but the aircraft skin itself is vibrating. These problems can to some degree be ameliorated, and in the now cancelled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, many of them were. The wreckage photographed in Pakistan shows that the fenestron assembly of the crashed machine has a distinctive hub-cap type cover to its centre rotor boss, reminiscent of the Comanche, and there seemed to be at least five blades emanating from the hub. Adding blades to both main and tail rotors is one way of reducing noise and more powerful engines operating at lower power settings is another.
The Pentagon is unlikely to release images of the helicopter, so interested observers are obliged to make educated guesses. Given the size of the tail section, evident in Internet images, the most likely scenario would appear to be that an elite unit of the US military is operating a heavily modified Sikorsky S-70 airframe incorporating a completely re-designed tail-section, possibly using technology and construction techniques pioneered in the Comanche. Of course, if any of AFM’s readers can provide us with images of an intact example, we’d love to hear from you!
dan thompson said on the 5-May-2011 at 18:43
it definately wasn't a Blackhawk!
Simon Matthews said on the 5-May-2011 at 20:47
it might not be a Blackhawk but it may be a Strikehawk (MH-60R) they look to have the same flat section on the underside of the tail. Just a thought
Dougie Monk said on the 5-May-2011 at 20:58
The shroud of the tail rotor will also decrease drag, giving a net increase in speed.
mike yates said on the 5-May-2011 at 22:12
When you spend $7 Billion on an advanced Comanche helicopter and it is cancelled, you can bet some of the Tech will appear on other helos from the same company. More likely more than 2 prototypes were built, no one will say huh! RAH66 a-like does it for me... And of course we KNOW the F117 still flies. Don`t we! Shhhh.
mike said on the 15-May-2011 at 02:06
It was A Blackhawk people, and if you dont have any 160th experience you should keep your mouths
closed. No wonder people never believe anything.
David Crouch said on the 5-Jun-2011 at 15:46
Dont think it matters what type of hellicopter it was it,s a wreck now so if it did,nt work don,t fix it.
more important how did the crew get out? alive.
and it could have been a lot cheaper to use CAMELS?????
Peter Bos said on the 5-Jul-2011 at 09:07
It turns out to be a modified MH60K.
According to Stephen Trimble is has been modified within the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell.
Shrouded tail and windscreen and deletion of refueling boom to reduce frontal RCS
The reason it crashed (same source)could be that the (possible) added weight caused engine failure while in hover within the compound.
With reportedly just helicopters involved one could wonder how the crew and troops on the crashed aircraft got out of there.
michael said on the 5-Aug-2011 at 08:44
Apparently the crash was caused by a vortex due to warm air and the high walls surrounding the complex,causing the aircraft to drop suddenly and clipping the wall.
David Crouch said on the 5-Aug-2011 at 10:21
Whatever, still an expesive opp. and the Camels still cheaper.
And why did the hellicopter have to land? absail and pickup, and if you take it a step further would it not hae been better to drop them by parracute, very quiet??????
michael said on the 5-Aug-2011 at 13:43
I was replying to someone who asked a serious question and wanted a serious answer,which it seems by your posts would exclude you.
mike yates said on the 5-Aug-2011 at 22:19
Parachuting CAMELS, No one would have thought of that would they?
Peter Bos said on the 5-Sep-2011 at 08:56
Drooping suicide camels by parachute and ask them to retrieve all kinds of intelligence.
Thank you David, you just spoiled the plan for the next daring raid. Back to the drawing board mr Q.
David Crouch said on the 5-Sep-2011 at 09:35
It seems that my coments did,nt go down too well.
ok.but it would seem that the Americans have over done it, after all it was,nt the most protected building and a few flashbangs would have surficed.im sure the SAS would have done it differently, with nobody getting hurt.
How much did that hellicopter cost???????????
michael said on the 5-Sep-2011 at 13:38
Firstly the Americans didn't know 100% that Osama was in residence only that it was a very high value target. That said you would then expect it to be very well protected,so you don't go in with a few 'flashbangs' unless you want your team to be massacred.
How in your opinion would the SAS have done it differently,the operation was a resounding success and nobody but the bad guys got hurt.
In return for the loss of one helicopter the US killed the number one terrorist on their wanted list,I think they will be quite happy with the result.
You really haven't thought things through have you?
pmm said on the 5-Sep-2011 at 23:15
A more stealthy approach may have allowed them some time to use some of the intel that they retrieved before going public. I agree, as an any price kill it was a success
Peter Bos said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 08:34
Come on guys, do not twist every topic into one being about the RAF budget cuts.
What can be shared about this helo?
michael said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 12:45
Who is talking about RAF budget cuts?
Peter Bos said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 14:44
Hopefully no one from now on but this thread spent a lot of input on how the SAS would have dropped camels or something like that and hardly anything on topic of that mysterious helicopter.
Just read it back and you'll probably get my point.
But Micheal, you are a rare exception ;-)
mike yates said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 16:49
Regarding the 160 Special Ops Reg Sikorski MH60 Blackhawk Helicopter involved in the Bin Laden strike, with or without a variant letter and with or without certain top secret modifications:
No one seems to be able to give any definative details....maybe the meaning of TOP SECRET.ho ho. Well at least it wasn`t another camel joke!
pmm said on the 5-Nov-2011 at 23:39
Mike you give me the hump.............oops sorry pete