Here’s a question many readers have been asking; how did four helicopters, likely from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, make their way inside Pakistan’s air defense intercept zone and carry out a 40-minute raid before the Pakistani military could react?
The answers are myriad. One theory in circulation is that the Predator drone reported to have been involved in the attacks wasn’t a Predator at all. Instead, it was the Air Force’s secret, stealthy-looking RQ-170 Sentinel better known as The Beast of Kandahar. The Sentinel famously earned its nickname after being spotted numerous times operating out of Kandahar International Airport in southern Afghanistan. When the Air Force finally acknowledged its existence, all it would say was that the drone was that is supports “combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets.” Still, many wondered why the air force was using such an advanced drone for this mission in a country where the U.S. enjoyed total air superiority. Can’t regular drones handle ISR missions in Afghanistan? Theories abound that the stealthy-looking plane is actually being used to snoop on neighboring Iran or Pakistan. Some have even postulated that the numerous humps found along the airframe house a variety of electronic warfare gear, the type of gear that could be used to confuse Pakistani air defenses during a raid like the one on Sunday. As Steve Trimble at the DEW Line notes, it may have also been used to provide the White House and other mission planners with real time video of the raid.
Or maybe, the plane is just in Afghanistan to be field tested in more realistic conditions than those found over the Nevada Test and Training Range, as some say. This leaves other possibilities as to how the U.S. snuck up to 80 men into a garrison town a little more than 30-miles from Pakistan’s capitol. Could it be, the “cooperation” that White house officials say Pakistan provided on the mission included turning a blind eye to the four helos and one drone? Still, the New York Times is reporting that Pakistani troops were scrambled upon literally hearing the commotion going on in Abbottabad. ABC news also reports that Pakistani fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the American choppers. They obviously didn’t arrive in time to do anything about the mission.