Recently surfaced photographs may have revealed that the raid on the Bin laden compound involved a secret helicopter with stealth capabilities.
The images show the remains of a downed helicopter that looked distinctly different from the Black Hawk choppers officials said were used during the operation. Navy SEAL commandos tried to use explosives to destroy any evidence of the aircraft after it clipped one of the compound's walls and was forced to make a hard landing.
The photos were distributed by the European PressPhoto agency after they received them from an anonymous news stringer.
Military experts noted that intact parts of aircraft were clearly designed to evade detection by troops and enemy radar. Some of the modifications mentioned include:
- A special coating that absorbs radar beams and the use of sharp edges on the helicopter instead of curved ones, according to Richard L. Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group (via New York Times)
- A “dishpan” cover over a five-or-six-blade tail rotor that reduces chopper noise and makes the aircraft less detectable by radar. A Black Hawk typically uses a four blade rotor. (Bill Sweetman, Aviation Week)
- “Certain parts of the fuselage, the nose and the tail had these various almost like snap-on parts to them that gave it the very unique appearance,” said an unnamed retired special operations aviator. (via ArmyTimes)
Government officials have stated that they would not comment on the photos. But Pakistani officials say that U.S. operatives had eluded radar detection, which suggests that stealth technology was likely used.
But even with much of the news media buzzing with speculation, the concept of a stealth helicopter isn't something that's entirely shrouded in secrecy. In 2004, the U.S. Army canceled development of the stealth RAH-66 Comanche (pictured above) after 16 years. Last year, SmartPlanet's Andrew Nusca had reported on a military firm that created noise-canceling rotor blades for improved reconnaissance.
The immediate concern for the American government are reports that Pakistan has sent some of the recovered helicopter parts to China, a neighboring country that has been actively pursuing the development of stealth aircraft. In January, a leaked video gave a glimpse of a Chinese stealth prototype, the J-20 fighter jet.
The raid that ended with the death of Osama Bin Laden has already strained America's relations with Pakistan. Now the resulting clash between these two nations may center on an aircraft nobody was supposed to even know about.
Image: RAH-66 Comanche/U.S. Army
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