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Another Shot of the Secret Helicopter Used In Bin Laden Raid

by John Reed on May 3, 2011

OK, here’s another view of the tail rotor from the crashed mystery helicopter used in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden that was posted on the militaryphotos forum. All I’ll say is that it sure doesn’t look like it came off even a modified MH-60 Black Hawk. It looks like a stealthy new aircraft.

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

Ece May 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Looking at the pieces, I am reminded of the Comanche….


Alex May 4, 2011 at 12:58 am

You in mean in the way it looks nothing like a Comanche tail….

You might wan to take another look


lal May 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm

yes…i am agreed its not like as u see…however Comanche can’t use for this type of ooperations…see the manual


Joe Schmoe May 4, 2011 at 12:14 am

Just wanted to point out a previous place where I've seen the plate over the rotor:

Look familiar?


Alex May 4, 2011 at 1:02 am

Your realize that your pictures shows the main rotor ? not the tail as is shown in the crash picture .


Joe Schmoe May 4, 2011 at 2:21 am

Yes, but I am assuming it serves the same function.

What we need is to get a helicopter pilot in here to discuss with us.


Guest May 4, 2011 at 7:05 am

Yes, most Sikorsky helicopters have a main rotor fairing on it. It's not something new.


blight May 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

The rotor photos tend to show five-blade configs, but the S-92 is another four-blader. Tail rotor doesn't look capped either?

For a new aircraft to be used, I'm surprised it wasn't utterly obliterated. Though then again, all we have is the tail, so maybe they destroyed all the good bits.


Jeff Fraser May 4, 2011 at 12:45 am

This is so cool.


FormerDirtDart May 4, 2011 at 1:22 am

Kind of looks like a modified tail of a AW139


Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Much bigger than an AW139. No way.


M167A1 May 4, 2011 at 2:27 am

I think its a heavily modified UH-60M

The tail rotor is similar to the AH-64s which uses a bit different configuration for noise suppression. That said there is not much left of the airframe and what is left doesn't give a conclusive answer. It could be a new bird but I think the 160th has been keeping some special infil birds around for just such an occasion.


Em1 May 4, 2011 at 3:26 am

where is the engine?? they couldn't have destroyed that..Pakistan must have a lot of wreckage intact…lets check ebay! :)


BombsOverRabdad May 4, 2011 at 6:15 am

What I dont understand is how would a stealthy bird give them any real edge if they had some loud (unstealthy) Chinooks bringing up the rear? I wouldnt think the MH-47s would've been that far behind the main force to give the stealthy birds an edge. Maybe they didnt use Chinooks at all? I dont know, just throwing it out there…

I havent seen any of this on mainstream news sites, you would think with all the coverage this story is getting this would be brought up on fox, cnn, or msnbc.


anon May 4, 2011 at 8:03 am

The helicopter assault force could've come in waves. Stealthy helicopters first, and follow up with Chinooks that arrive in acoustic range by the time the shooting starts. During Restore Hope, one of the MO's used by TF Ranger was fast-rope and the use of Chinooks to exfil, and for Gothic Serpent they used a ground exfil. The rest is history.


DurkMcGurk May 4, 2011 at 8:34 am

people heard the choppers before the shooting though. The Chinooks couldn't have been too far behind.


Ales May 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

First shots by Seals could be silenced and after securing the outside Chinooks moved in.


Riceball May 4, 2011 at 10:27 am

It's SEALs as in Sea Air & Land, a Seal is a marine mammal. A reader of this blog should know better.

Saul May 4, 2011 at 7:38 am

MSM couldn't find mushrooms ina mushroom factory.

Anyway, if you are doing a night op. stealthed helos coming in from behind the op fors while they are distracted by the louder copters could work. was this a night op, if memory serves?


@Brianckramer May 4, 2011 at 9:15 am

I agree with floatsam for the most part. It looks like a modified uh-60 with differently shaped fuselage made of new materials. The rotor cap is nothing new, but it's not just a new rotor cap, its a whole new rotor (5 blades, looks flush to skin). It also looks like they did a good job with the thermite grenades, because there's not much left. It looks likes it came down hard on the wall, and the tail boom broke over the wall.


Brian Black May 4, 2011 at 11:11 am

Composites, light alloys and a good few litres of aviation fuel don't need a great deal of help to burn up, and you won't get much recognizably surviving a good blaze.


Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Really big tail and tail rotor hub to be any kind of H-60……


Doogie May 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

I read on another av-tech site that there's a possiblity that attempting to land/take-off in a small area surrounded by very tall and non-porous walls would have easily caused a redirection of the main rotor wash directly upward and effectin a severe stall of the main rotor.


guest May 4, 2011 at 10:50 am

I would be surprised if a highly trained force like the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment would over look something like this.


mike May 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

if it is a new craft it is following the expected performance characeristics of any new platform…failure upon initial deployment!


COSMAS MAGALLE May 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm

THE CALL ME +255767911914


Anon May 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

A new, stealth, secret Skunk Works helo would be awesome. Sadly that would be too exciting, and I'm going to assume that it's just a modified Blackhawk. Even if it is just a facelift of the 30 year old design, it's still pretty impressive. I do hope that we get to find out what this is soon.


Brian Black May 4, 2011 at 11:05 am

I'm betting my ten bob on it being a Blackhawk too; just one with a hell of a lot of carbon fibre stuck to it.

It looks to me to be close enough to the familiar Blackhawk shape and angles; and frankly, I don't know where the US would have found the money to come up with a new medium helicopter at this time - let alone a magic stealth one.

The multi-role Blackhawk/Apache replacement is penciled in for around 2030. I wasn't expecting to see any big development surprises before then.


Tom May 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm

the budget for black projects like this is widely part of the official DoD budget which is estimated to be around $70 Billions and is covered with beautiful imaginary names. Things like this can surface without having "extra money" reserved for it.


Snoopy May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

If only 2 helos were used, and they were UH-60 Black Hawks, and if 25 SEALS were deployed, and they lost one helo, how did just one Black Hawk get 25 men plus bin Laden out? The UH-60 is rated to carry 11 combat ready troops?? I think eith Chinooks or some new helo’s were used — else there’ info missing in the news.


Will May 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

Where did "only 2 helos were used" come from? Even if the 1st wave arrived in just 2 MH-60, more helos were certainly involved. They knew going in that there should be more stuff outbound than inbound. And 1 of the lessons of Eagle Claw in 1980 was to have numerous extra aircraft available in case of misfortune. The H-60s have the lift capacity of other helos with much bigger cabins. They routinely transport more than 11 troops at a time - they stand instead of sit.


ron May 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I'm with you. They talk about seventy some commandos, how the heck did this occur with just two helicopters and then when one was crippled how did all seventy some get out?


Raraavis May 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

There are pictures on other sites of the Pakis hauling off the wreckage. It looks like the whole thing was composite construction. It was not a upgrade or modification of a production Blackhawk. It looks like it was a built from scratch stealth helicopter.


Morty May 4, 2011 at 11:42 am

I did not know that there are stealth helicopters


Nun May 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm

>I did not know that there are stealth helicopters

True. They're so stealthy you don't know they exist.


DC2 Jennings May 4, 2011 at 11:52 am

The Sikorsky S-92 can carry at least 24 passeners. It has been offered multiple times in multiple configurations for SAR, Spec Ops, even Marine One. A heavily modified S-92 designed for special operations would be about right.

Looks like the tail boom is even kicked offcenter a little like the S-92.

Just a thought….



Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Completely different stabilator/horiz stab than the S-92, and tail rotor. This had a shrouded T/R hub and looks like more than 4 T/R blades….. Possible I guess.


Tim May 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

Whether this is true or not (a new stealthy helicopter), the news surely will keep the bad dudes up at night worrying they will be visited by cool looking guys wearing black coming off from a very black helicopter in the middle of pitch-dark night.



cartman2394 May 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

This photo really does give it the modified look of a blackhawk. Though I do see one issue. The pictures appear to show the rotor being flush with the tail, the blackhawks rotor is slanted. Now this could just be a change in the modifications, but it would effect the lifting properties of the helicopter. How much i don't know, but i know it would.


Jeff May 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

In another blog they're reporting that a piece with a serial number was recovered indicating a 2009 manufacturing date… for what that's worth. Here's an artist rendition based on reckage… http://cencio4.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/mh-x3….
Its an interesting picture even if it turns out to be more imagination than fact.


Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Stealth doesn't advantage a helicopter. They are extrememly difficult to detect on radar and harder to engage with a radar guided SAM….. So why make the investment in "stealth" for a helicopter?


Mastro May 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

They are stealthy to radar if they can get behind a mountain or something- but at some point they will be exposed to radar.

We wasted a $billion on Comanche stealth- good to see we used some of that.


@Brianckramer May 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Actually the rotors on a helicopter are really easy to see on radar, and since they fly at low levels IR isn't too hard either. Ask the Russians who flew in Afghanistan.


jamesb May 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Ok…I'm going with floatsam…..

A quiet blackhawk with compsites….
First one in….

Makes sense becaues helo's working hard coming hot DO make a heck of a lot of noise….

For the chap on the get away numbers ……Chinnoks brought up the rear…common sense dictates they did the heavy lifting smart….

When this all comes out I'll bet there wher Delta's, Pj's , CIA Sec Opers and few others making the ride….


Guest May 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm

i don't know man this just doesn't look like something modified.


Condor May 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Has anyone noticed the fact that it has a 5-blade tail rotor? None of the offered suggestions have this, even the S-92, for all it's size. This is indicative of a major redesign to slow down the tail rotor speed to make it quieter for stealthy tactical insertion. My "guess" would also be a redesigned UH-60 of some sort just for this use. My "guess" is also that not very many would exist for obvious reasons of cost, and necessity. Spec-Ops often use prototypes for a decided advantage and to test future broadbased tech in the field.


Snake May 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I'm looking at the probability that it was a Sikorsky X2 attack prototype. This helo would of been used to provide over watch while Devgru inserted. Then it must of lost ability to hover and then was detonated when the men exfiled. The other helos in the AO will intact and used to transport the men out. Most likely the troops exfiled on MH-60's. and this assumed X2 filled the role of MH-6 helos. There is no way on Blackhawk was bringing out 20+men.


flotsam May 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Okay, so new pictures out today, but only raise more questions.
First I will address some of the comments.
Where are the engines? Good question. The GE T700's normally mounted are manufactured from very high temperature durable alloys. It's been 20 years since I last read about thermite reactions, so I can't recall the temps reached, nor am I motivated enough to give myself a quick refresher via internet. GE isn't likely to release the details of the alloys involved, either. I don't know, that info may be out there. I am specifically a turbine mechanic, and I have seen engines survive fires and not survive fires. I don't know what would have happened in this case, but my instincts tell me that the engines were probably removed from the crash scene first if they survived the fire, and most likely before anyone competent began taking photos for public consumption. Given what I've seen at Honeywell's plant in Phoenix, the engines could have been… anything.
Why a stealthy helicopter mixed with non-stealth? I think this has been addressed elsewhere, but I'll run through it real quick. The assault team wants surprise on their side, and they don't need perimeter security immediately. Two Chinooks two minutes behind two stealthed Blackhawks is plenty. I've seen people claiming to fit all 24 of the assault team on one Blackhawk-good luck. Yeah, they commonly hold 19 or so folks, but 24 team members would require all seats removed and that 24 guys crouch-stand packed together for the duration of the flight. Sounds like a golden opportunity for the Murphy's adventure of a lifetime as everyone's gear gets entangled and they can't get out the doors. Not to mention how badly they'll be missing the crew chiefs and their mini-gun's suppressing fire while they're struggling to untangle themselves. So 12 guys on each A/C-duh, that's a no-brainer. Take a close look at some of the photos that show the corrugated-roofed shed in the lz-the roof is completely perfed with mini-gun fire. The Chinooks come in after the assault has kicked off, land across the road and offload the perimeter security team and all the other tagalong CIA, NSA, Grey Fox, etc. personnel.
As for Cenciotti's illustration, I'm glad someone pointed it out and I saw it before I spent several hours working on one. His is dead on, and exactly what I would expect to see. The only thing in his illustration I take issue with is his depiction of the retracting landing gear. I'm not arguing that it can't have retracting landing gear, but it can't in that location unless the crew stations have been completely re-arranged, which he doesn't address. Not to mention the hard-landing function of the landing gear, which is lost when they're retracted. Obviously there are advantages to retracting landing gear, but mostly to aerodynamic efficiency-certainly not to maintenance requirements and reliability. Given that this appears to be purpose-built, my guess would be that the landing gear on this "stealthed" Blackhawk are identical or nearly identical to the everyday landing gear. I'm sure everyone would like to squeeze some more knots out of the airframe, but I doubt that the expense and unreliability and maintenance hassle of retracting landing gear lets that equation work out in favor of retracting over fixed, particularly when considering the frequency of hard-landings in special ops work. Those big ol' hydraulic pistons may have saved a few lives, and maybe a few pilot's backs. The friends that I've lost in crashes have mostly been killed by the heavy stuff above their heads crushing them when they crashed.
David's visualization of the A/C looks nearly exactly right to me because it looks like the results of Sikorsky/US Army taking a stripped-down Blackhawk fuselage w/ no tailboom or components out to Scaled Composites along with DARPA stealth studies and giving them a blank check to do it right.
I'm not sure why folks keep talking about the passive venting, or if they're even just talking about the tailrotor gearbox vent/inspection cover, or what. The vent cover is the diamond-shaped cut-out in the top of the tail where the tailrotor gearbox can be accessed and is usually covered with mesh (which appears to be missing in the photos). Not sure why anyone's talking about it, though. It looks pretty standard.


John Deere May 4, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Blue Thunder?


flotsam May 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Are you being facetious, or is that a cover you've heard of?


flotsam May 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Ah, I forgot to address the "too much turbulence near tall non-porous walls leads to a stall."

Any hard landing that occurred was solely the result of fog-of-war, Murphy's law, etc. It is clear from the satellite images as well as ground images that landing two Blackhawks inside that compound was a very tight squeeze. My guess is that there was no plan at all to land the assault craft within the perimeter; I would guess the teams roped in and went at it while the A/C moved a short distance away, presumably to the field/rally point where the Chinooks and security team were coming in. So if you have two A/C inbound heavily loaded, and two assault A/C circling/orbiting/hovering above the assault to add suppressive fire as-needed, you have a couple of A/C moving around down very low where it is extremely easy to have all kinds of Murphy's law stuff happen. Example: as is well known, rotary-wing A/C cause all kinds of turbulence down low (Google the recent video of the Osprey coming in to land at a park for some kind of celebration sending tree limbs flying and clobbering a bunch of the crowd). This turbulence can make all kinds of stuff take flight. I've seen a 60 pound body armor vest 100 ft away from a UH60 taking off lift off the ground and "fly" 40 or 50 ft. away and 15 ft. high in the air. So all it takes is one large piece of light, strong, semi-flexible material (like a small sheet of thin plastic) to lift off the ground, enter the turbulent air, become caught in the intake air for either engine, lodge somewhere in the intake system and cause a compressor stall (a compressor stalls when the pressurized air leaving the compressor and entering the combustion chamber is de-pressurized suddenly (like a disruption to the intake air flow), which allows the combustion chamber's expanding gas pressure to exceed that of the compressor output and then "reverse" flow back through the compressor. The compressor can't turn both directions at once.). There is no lack of such trash almost anywhere in the urban world, so it wouldn't exactly be a surprise to find that as the assault A/C circled down low one A/C ingested some trash that caused a compressor stall, a low altitude power loss, and a subsequent hard-landing. I still can't exactly explain to myself how the tail ended up over the fence. The photos showing the kids picking up pieces in the wheat field argue for an explosive nature to the attempt to destroy-in-place, but as I didn't watch the kids pick up the souvenirs, I'm not entirely sure they were literally picking them up hundreds of feet away. Perhaps someone will twitter the truth. I can see that a failed approach to the compound could have lead to a hard-landing that didn't quite make it entirely over the fence, but that A/C attitude to me looks like that would have put the main blades into ground contact, which would have had devestating results for the A/C, crew, PAX, and adjacent A/C, so I'm a little curious as to the A/C positioning. Can't imagine they were actually going to land IN the compound, can't imagine why translating from controlled flight to hard-landing would require PIC to attempt to make the compound, so no real explanation as to the tail's eventual position. Given the smoking remains inside the compound, the tail looks to be in the right spot, except that it would have been on top of a 10' tall wall.
As for the tall, non-porous walls-c'mon, man. They practiced this, over and over and over. If you've ever read anything about the 160th, the aftermath of Desert One, and particularly Vietnam Huey "slick" pilot first person narratives, you know that squeezing a helicopter into particularly tight spots requires practice, practice, practice (and excellent crew coordination). If they were planning to land in that compound inside those walls, they knew exactly how tall they were and how close together. We have been repeatedly informed that a replicated compound was built in Afghanistan to practice on, so I doubt that they spent all that time practicing the insertion and failed to notice that the walls were or were not having an adverse affect on the A/C handling.


Mike May 4, 2011 at 8:26 pm

So what the heck is this thing nobody has been talking about? http://www.getdieselpower.com/heli/BinLaden/Bin%2…


Condor May 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

What no one seems have noted, is the fact that it has a 5-blade tail rotor, instead of the standard 4. Obviously for slower rotation and quieter operation. The other photo on Fox website or AP showing the pile of junk that was it's fuselage, also indicates by the rotors lying on the ground, that it had a 5-blade main rotor as well. The tail fairing does have the similar shape to an S-92. It could be a modified S-92 which has been made quieter and more stealthy for spec-ops tactical insertion use. Such a modiefied design would seem logical for spec ops. Such prototypes are readily used for spec-ops to test new technology for future broadbased use. It seems obvious only a few may exist for reasons of cost, and secrecy.


Guest May 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm

The US military has never purchased a military S92. The only military S92 aircraft in production are for the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Program (H92 variant or CH148).


Condor May 5, 2011 at 1:26 am

if that’s the case, then it’s probably a modified Uh-60 of some sort. The tail does look to be abou the right size.


guest May 4, 2011 at 11:02 pm

The remains of the destroyed helicopter is on it's way to the Chinese embassy. LOL


MIKE May 5, 2011 at 3:02 am



MIKE May 5, 2011 at 3:09 am



MikeModel May 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm

NO. The size of the vertical pylon outside the wall and even the parts that remain in the wreckage inside the wall are too small to be an S-92 variant. It is DEFINITELY not an S-92. The scale of all the parts, including the still intact pitch change horns do however match a UH-60 variant.


MIKE May 5, 2011 at 8:13 pm

The wreakage inside the wall has been blown to bits and burned beyond recognizing what it could be. The tail of a h-60 is angled. This tail is "L" shaped and much thicker to handle a heavier copter. It is absolutely a modified h-92.


flotsam May 5, 2011 at 4:44 am

Ah, and now I see an article here at DefenseTech extracted from Sean Naylor of the Army Times, who cites a reliable source who confirms most of what I was thinking, and who also rather recklessly exposes the exact organization that I "wasn't" talking about. Cool. We can all start searching for their patch and expect to see that its design includes five stars standing away from a sixth. Here's the link: http://defensetech.org/2011/05/04/secret-bin-lade


flotsam May 5, 2011 at 5:03 am

I forgot to mention that the linked article also confirms the speculations of several commentators here as well, particularly M167A1.
I also should mention in deference to the tall, non-porous walls theory the following extract from wikipedia: "A helicopter normally encounters settling with power when attempting to hover out of ground effect above the hovering ceiling for the aircraft, hovering out of ground effect without maintaining precise altitude control, and while making downwind or steep, powered approaches when the airspeed drops to nearly zero. The signs of settling with power are a vibration in the main rotor system followed by an increasing sink rate and possibly a decrease of cyclic authority.[2] The failure of a helicopter pilot to recognize and react to the condition can lead to high descent rates and impact with terrain, a frequently fatal event."


Sir. Martin May 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Ok. So here is the real question. Are there more of these? …and…Where did it come from? Was is Armed? …if so…with what?


scoobycaint2 May 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I agree with Joe Schmoe.
Stealth modified S92/CH-148 with ECM in the tail. Has a shorter tail rotor mast therefore shorter tail rotor blades than UH-60. The S92/CH-148 can carry a load of people (22 in utility mode) and cargo, has a drop tail for fast roping and quick loading and has a much longer standard range. It is also slightly shorter than the UH-60 and variants.

If memory serves me correctly( which is doesn't the older I get)the S92 was the chopper that was used by Spec Ops to physically carry Jessica Lynch in the rescue raid (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong because according to my wife I usually am).

It also has roughly the same visual profile of the MI-8,14,17 which the Pakis are known to have. If someone looked up to the sound of choppers flying over at low altitude they would see what looks like a flight of Paki choppers not some futuristic stealth choppers or Sea Hawks (which they would instantly identify as American). The old hide in plain sight, theory.

Heck it may even be a US modification of the MI-8,14,17. The USAF 6th SOS operates a few of the MI-8s in FL. Why not use EXACTLY what the Pakis use with some electronic counter measures added on.

Remember who the Pakis purchased most of their radar and air defense systems from in the 80s-90s….US(A). We always have override and backdoor micro-circuitry in anything that goes to "Allies" just in case we need to "blind" them in situations like this.


Mike May 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm

It's a Blackhawk. Your answer is here..


MIKE May 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Dont think so. Look at the shape of the tail section. Looks more like a modified h-92. I believe your retired source is mistaken.


Mike May 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm

My source says this…

"it was seal team 6 and some delta people.

you won't find many if any pictures of this heli. it has been around a long time.

i oversee a uh60 airframe assembly operation. we know what is going on with this mission and our helicopter that was involved."


cartman2394 May 6, 2011 at 2:19 am

Scoobycaint2 with all due respect to you also,

One this operation was run through JSOC not the standard military therefore the Army/ Navy bs doesnt apply. The special forces community uses each others gear all the time. On top of that the seals were most likely not flown in by Navy equipment. special forces are inserted by sister departments all the time, you dont get the bickering that the standard forces have.

On the stealth point most of the time when the military uses the word it simply means its harder to detect. It most of the time doesnt mean they have made it invisible or silent, just simply that its hard to detect then the standard system.

As for the type of aircraft i wont debate simply because all of the info we are working off of is about 10 pictures with no other info.


James Mclean May 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Well said


Mike May 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

Big changes in the Joint Forces have made these things routine(sharing). I was at an AirForce briefing for graduated Airman. They said to "expect" to be used (personnel) for whatever or wherever you are needed even if it's to relieve or replace another services mission. And you may not be doing anything you were thinking you would be. There is no reason they wouldn't make it possible to do this mission with whatever resources are available without any concern as to what branch might not "approve". As a matter of fact, they train together just for this type of thing. It's not like it was. Yes there still is separation overall but you see them mixing it up routinely.

Stealth is too strong a term for this heli. It's low observable… simple as that. Get in further taking routes around radar. As far as refueling is concerned, not sure they even would want to risk it. They could have a mid mission refueling stop in Pakistan. How do we know this wasn't planned well enough to allow that without the Pakistanies knowing… at least they could have simply dropped fuel and the personnel, did the mission and pulled them out. No special brains required to figure that out.

I vote Blackhawk. My guy knows the bird.


scoobycaint2 May 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Mike and Cartman

You both have valid points on JSOC and the new level of Cross Branch Cooperation and asset sharing. I am also aware the Agency can even bring its toy box to the party if necessary. I would just say, if an SO Mission Commander is asked for an asset list he is almost certainly going to prefer to use In-Branch assets first. He wants his bacon protected by people and equipment he knows and knows well. Granted his branch may not have all necessary assets in theater and/or available, and he can be overridden, especially in a mission of this magnitude. But, he is most likely going with his teamies first when given the choice.

I do understand and agree cross branch cooperation is absolutely essential in today's game and thankful for it. I always said why all the fussing and fighting we are all on the same side…one big family and all.

This points to one reason I have always admired the Air Force. If you are Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Gaurd, or Agency, place a call for ordinance on a coordinate and the USAF is happy to deliver. Big lovable Air Heads.

Either way it was a job well done. And both of you have provided spirited debate on a interesting and kind of odd topic.

One note on the picture: A good analyst can tell you much from a picture. I once located a POI's residence in Den Haag, Netherlands on a satellite image. My only reference points were the country and a discarded photo of the person with the only observable objects being a light post, trash can and sliver of a roof line. I would be a liar if I called myself Good. So, you can imagine what a treasure trove these photos are to A game analysts.

One note on the in-mission ground refueling: An old adage handed down to me goes like this "Mission Simplicity = Mission Success" — reduce the moving parts and you reduce the fail points. You might want to ask President Jimmy how the in-mission ground refueling worked for him. Unfortunately many good men were lost in the Iran Hostage rescue attempt and Murphy's law was again painfully proven infallible. I know things have changed for the better since then, but I'm just saying…


James Mclean May 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm

*Ordnance not ordinance


James Mclean May 6, 2011 at 11:19 pm

"if an SO Mission Commander is asked for an asset list he is almost certainly going to prefer to use In-Branch assets first. He wants his bacon protected by people and equipment he knows and knows well. Granted his branch may not have all necessary assets in theater and/or available, and he can be overridden, especially in a mission of this magnitude. But, he is most likely going with his teamies first when given the choice."

They will use any assets that are available. Simple as that.


flotsam May 7, 2011 at 1:02 am

You guys are all kind of right and kind of wrong. The 160th IS the tool box of choice, for everybody. That's a part of their mission statement, organizational layout, etc. That was the plan, and that's how it's been. Between them and the Air Force's rowdy bunch at Hurlburt, I don't doubt for a minute that they carry about 99% of the black insertion load. That said, there's plenty of speculation out there, some well-founded, about other "assets." The CIA is free to use whomever best fills the requirements, and whether they maintain an in-house black-ops insertion service capable of mounting this size raid or not, considering they are a constant customer of 160th, there is no doubt that the old inter-service rivalries aren't really so much the issue anymore in the integrated JSOC structure. We spent a lot of lives, a lot of money, and a lot of political capital building a structure that can excel at this sort of asymmetric ambiguous combat, and the Bin Laden raid reflects that. Sean Naylor's analysis of Anaconda clearly illustrates some of the maturation pains that were encountered as this integration occurred. The question really isn't so much who flew the A/C-it's clear that it was 160th crews-but where did the A/C come from? Well, it came from a hangar in Nevada, probably at Area 51, and it was one of at least two leftover from an earlier and now abandoned program that didn't break any new ground-the stealth geometries and materials compositions were already well known post-F117, and the additional rotor blades, hubcaps, noise-reduction technologies have been clearly within practical though not always economical reach since 1968 (as evidenced by Air America's Quiet One). It's actually kind of a let down-there's nothing really all that exciting going on here, and the limited evidence available seems to confirm that. If the Quiet One could be detected at 600 feet but sounded like a distant airplane and something even close to that was achieved with these so-called MH-60X's, then that's really about all you could ask for in a traditional rotary-wing A/C for a black insertion-there's so much turbulence when it's right overhead that it's impossible to hide, so if you come in quiet and nobody looks up until they feel the air start to move, when they look up, they'll boots and guns coming at their face. To actually build a new stealth helicopter from scratch, especially in light of the Comanche cancelation, just doesn't make any sense from a practical standpoint as even with billions of dollars in R&D, the product won't be all that much stealthier than the A/C used in this raid. SOCOM probably spent several million on the contract with Boeing to re-fit these H-60's, and can do it again pretty much at will. The success of this raid will give anyone pushing for $$ for more MH-60X airframes some helpful luster (there's an empty spot in that hangar now, after all), but if the CIA wants 100% guaranteed stealth insertions, they need to develop radar-invisible rigid inflatables that are cloaked. Which are coming soon.


Josh May 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

I find it funny how networks such as CNN are buzzing about how this is a secret stealth helicopter and the fact it may be handed to China… Hmmm maybe they should be a bit quiet and not dampen our security by reporting about it!!! Secret means secret!

Either way… This looks like one **** of an aircraft, lets just pray bejing does not get a good look.


scoobycaint2 May 7, 2011 at 1:32 am

"*Ordnance not ordinance "

I type, the computer corrects, and I'm still WRONG.


AirBag May 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Dear All, 160 SOAR was used 2 special MH-60M from 17.feb 2011. I am surprised so m,ush that all American web communitty doestn know for operations in Fort Coompbell, hellooou guys. .http://www.soc.mil/UNS/Releases/2011/February/006_MH_60M_ArrivalFTCKY.jpg...


Mike May 17, 2011 at 10:48 am

Here's the skinny on the operation


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IFB May 4, 2011 at 4:01 am

The profile of the elevators also seems to support your theory that they are forward swept.


burkefett May 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm

If stealth is considered unimportant to helicopters, then why was so much effort put into the stealthy characteristics on the RAH-66? Obviously IR suppression is a big starting point, but I highly doubt that the US Army would have put so much effort into a reduced radar signature without a reason to do so.


@Brianckramer May 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm

You said "stealth" which to you means radar, while to me it mean visible, infrared, acoustic and radar. There is no reason to think some improvements can't be made over the standard uh-60, and I bet if you were on the helo crossing into another countries airspace you would want any improvement, however slight, to have been done.


Tom May 4, 2011 at 7:47 pm

most technologies have a background or history over several decades - at least if you investigate deeper while stying impartial. You simply can't just attach a few LO-panels over an A/C skin and expect it to be a working and multifunctional warfighting machine where every little piece is doing its part. It takes time and money (investments into R&D) that's why it's kept secret! The pictures of the helo show a part of such an investment.


M May 5, 2011 at 12:40 am

VA, for sure.


James Mclean May 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

"To expect the Army to loan a helo to the Navy for a mission such as this and actually have the Navy accept is short of ludicrous. "

You obviously no NOTHING about joint military operations and the US Armed Forces of 2011.
US Navy SEALS operate under USSOCOM which is the special forces command of the US obviously. Active duty Navy here and have witnessed AF Special forces operate from our CSAR birds on missions in the past.


Joe Schmoe May 6, 2011 at 11:48 pm


The more I compare the two, the more it looks like a modified CH-148 and not a MH-60. Tail boom thickness/width is about right for a CH-148 but too wide for MH-60.

Also the elevators are already separated in the tail and not one big flap like the H-60.

This bird is most definitely a H-92 variant, it would also allow the number of troops to be carried for this mission in two helicopters. The H-92/CH-148 already includes some noise quieting gear as default.

Can we get someone to use the man in the picture for reference and try and fit this boom on a H-92?


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