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back to article New top-secret stealth choppers used on bin Laden raid

The US special-ops troops who killed Osama bin Laden at the weekend appear to have travelled to their target in previously unknown stealth helicopters. One of the secret choppers was disabled during the raid and blown up by the departing SEAL commandos in a largely successful attempt to prevent its technology falling into non-US …

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Black Helicopters

'significantly less noisily than a standard Blackhawk'...

... or not according to http://twitter.com/#!/ReallyVirtual

1am: Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1 am (is a rare event).

1am: Go away helicopter- before I take off my giant sweater.

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That was 'overhead'

If the chopper is amost directly overhead, there's little or nothing that can be done to reduce the noise. But by then it's usually a moot point anyway.

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Coat

Hear no evil^H^H^H^H good

Maybe he could see it?

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Sound of explosions is a bit of a giveaway

Not much point having all that sound-deadening technology if you then alert the whole neighbourhood to your presence by blowing up one that doesn't work properly. (Wonders if the added tech might have been the -cause_ of the problems?)

And after that presumably there was a bunch of americans, who were on that chopper, trying to look inconspicuous at Islamabad airport, waiting for a commercial flight back to the USA while muttering bad things about unreliable aircraft and stoooopid technology that's more trouble than it's worth.

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WTF?

AK?

Could be the advanced bits on it or maybe an influx of 7.62 rounds from the guys on the roof?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sound of explosions is a bit of a giveaway

"Not much point having all that sound-deadening technology if you then alert the whole neighbourhood to your presence by blowing up one that doesn't work properly."

Once you have arrived, started killing people and blowing things up, everyone knows you are there and stealth is no longer significant. However, stealth might be quite important if you are to maintain the element of surprise which, along with arriving when your enemy is sound asleep, may help keep your people alive. If your arrival is announced by the sound of your helicopters, they may be shot out of the sky before reaching their target.

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Joke

Stealth sneaking in is their main weapon.

Surprise is their main weapon, and excellent combat training. That, and an almost fanatical devotion to the US of A.

That's why nobody ever expects them.

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Coat

And a night out with a naval officer?

Oh, I'll come in again...

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Type something witty here...

and nice green uniforms..

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Coat

Do their helicopters...

...have comfy chairs?

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Coat

Comfy chairs?

No, but they do have...........IRAQ! *scare chord*

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Maybe the wrong emphasis?

Perhaps they should have focused less on making it stealthy and more on stopping it falling out of the sky due to the inefficiencies introduced by the modifications?

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Didn't fall out of the sky until the troops were on target.

Redundancy was built into the mission because of previous lessons learned. Being in the middle of a firefight seems to lessen the lifespan of most copters. So I'd say it pretty much worked as planned.

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But it was not shot down

"Being in the middle of a firefight seems to lessen the lifespan of most copters" only if it gets shot down. The USAian were very quick to say it was not shot down so either it was duff hardware or bad driving.

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Anonymous Coward

If not shot down

it may have been damaged on the ground by gun fire as well as mechanical/user problems

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US commandos and helicopters

Have a tough love relationship. Every time they go on a covert operation they seem to lose one or two of them...

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Helicopters and US commandos

It's really odd the way helicopters always seem to function perfectly until there's a high profile spec ops mission at which point they just randomly fall from the sky.

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Anonymous Coward

Crashhawk

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=crash-hawk

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Coat

cause and effect?

just because every time we 'hear' about a black hawk going down it was part of a mission, doesn't mean that ever mission has a black hawk down :)

similarly, I'm sure there are accidents that occour outside of missions as well, but obviously that's a fair bit less sexy for the newspapers.

Front page tomorrow: Commando mission in helmland carried out from black hawks.. and none of them went down :)

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FAIL

US special forces & helicopters - not a great track record

The rescue of hostages in Iran (Operation Eagle Claw) was subjec to US helicopter issues as well (Delta Force as opposed to DevGru this time round) - from Wikipedia:

The plan called for a minimum of six helicopters; eight were sent in.[3] Two helicopters could not navigate through a very fine sand cloud (a haboob) which forced one helicopter to crash land and the other to return to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Six helicopters reached the initial rendezvous point, Desert One, but one of them had damaged its hydraulic systems. The spares were on one of the two helicopters that had aborted. From the early planning stages, it had been determined that if fewer than six operational helicopters were available, then the mission would be automatically aborted, even though only four were absolutely necessary for the operation.[3] In a move still debated,[4] the commanders on the scene requested to abort the mission; Carter gave his approval.

As the U.S. force prepared to leave Iran, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft containing fuel and a group of servicemen. The resulting fire destroyed the two aircraft involved[3] and resulted in the remaining helicopters being left behind and the deaths of eight American servicemen. Operation Eagle Claw was one of the first missions conducted by Delta Force.[5]

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FAIL

More prominant...

Seal Team Six - who apparently carried out this mission, were also involved with Delta Force in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu - also known as Black Hawk Down. Another , more famous (thanks to the book / film) US helicopter disaster but not perhaps as covert as it should have been.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: US special forces & helicopters - not a great track record

In defense of the whirly birds, the Iran fiasco was more an example of incompetence than bad hardware.

Fine sand - It's a desert, you were expecting chocolate sprinkles perhaps?

Spares on the two that turned back - D'oh

And crashing into a stationary (yes, it was landed) C-130 - No comment!

As for the whirly bird which really did suffer hydraulic failure, I can't help but wonder if that was to be expected due to mistreatment!

Luckily the lessons were learnt for future missions, namely a little more thought and planning, and a bit less Gung ho.

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A (letter) 1 (digit)

Errm, wasn't the planned mission time longer than the MTBF of the helicopters?

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Grenade

... and a bit less Gung ho

Remember, these are Americans you're talking about

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Big Brother

Worked a treat

against Bin Laden's radar facilities and missile sites. Perhaps they can spend a few more dollars to develop one that flies rather than plummets

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WTF?

well..

How do we know it malfunctioned. I say a guard in the compound shot it down. America wanting to save face tell us it just malfunctioned. Then destroyed it to hide that 1) it was shot down. 2) hide secret tech.

We heard that no SEALs were injured in the mission. I wonder what happned to the 'copter Pilot and crew?

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Reports I saw said they lost lift as they approached the compound to land.

Probably as a result of the spot within the compound where they landed and the way the airflow changed. Upshot was that everyone was close enough to do a successful hard landing and continue with the mission.

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Boffin

Helicopters....

....suffer from a nasty effect when the pilot rapidly increases collective pitch to reduce the sink rate on landing. Essentially the air beneath the rotor disc starts to rotate in the same direction as the rotor blades leading to a sudden loss of lift for a short period. On a heavily loaded helo, and at altitude (unsure of Abbottabad's density altitude) this can easily lead to a hard landing without a lot of control.

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Vortex Ring State

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vortex_ring_helicopter.jpg

The rotation of air is not horizontal but vertical. The air from under the rotor goes up outside the disc then down through it, so the helicopter quite literally is pooling the rug from underneath itself...

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Oh, crap

That's pulling not pooling...

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Yeah sure, but

Don't they train their pilots to handle this sort of flying? Of course they do.Perhaps the pilot has trained on a regular Blackhawk and this new extra-blade version handles very differently.

Or of course it could have just crashed for numerous reasons or have been shot down.

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Black Helicopters

Interesting

Not really a surprise that they lost a heli, trying to land one in the dark, in a built up area is always highly dangerous. That is why the special forces learn how to rope (zip line) out of them onto the ground. Looks like they learnt their lesson from the Iran hostage rescue fiasco and took several spare helis. I think the journos figured there was about 4 in total which is rather high for a covert mission.

We can all speculate about what kit the US used to transmit all the communications and no doubt air assets were flying around to provide overwatch. However, the US had plenty of time to prepare so the CIA probably rented out a nearby house and discreetly shoved a satellit dish on the top. Set up a base station for the Seals to use and voila, a forward covert base to handle communications and chuck out a unit of Seals to prevent any escape until the reinforcements arrived from the helicopters. The CIA could then grab all the gear and jump onto the helicopters right after the end of the gunfight. Why make it any more complicated than that? Heck, they could have probably tunnelled their way under the wall, just in case!

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Re: Interesting

"Heck, they could have probably tunnelled their way under the wall, just in case!"

There is no way that anyone could dig a tunnel into a secure compound and remain undetected. Wait a sec....what's that about a prison?...

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Boffin

RE: Interesting

"....the CIA probably rented out a nearby house..." That's highly unlikley, I suspect the CIA stayed well-clear physically and relied on electronic means to recce the site. As shown by the Raymond Davis event, the Pakistani ISI keeps a very close eye on CIA operatives in areas where they might stumble on hidden terrorists. For their own good, natch.....

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Boffin

@ Bryant

The CIA realised a few years back that all their expensive satellites and electronic gizmos, although great, could not replace proper human intelligence. They were shadowing the couriers, they must have had people on the ground as following people around "Enemy of the State" style has serious limitations. This is an example where the US took its time (Obama was first briefed in September) and did the HUMINT thing properly rather than blowing things up or just grabbing the couriers! They would have had people watching the compound and standing around in the street all day is rather obvious! This is an operation where the US would have used everything they could and electronic serveillance can never tell you everything, no matter how good it is.

Yes the Pakistani ISI would have been trying to monitor every CIA operative, but the CIA know this, the Pakistanis know that they know, they pretend they don't know. The CIA is still skilled enough to be able to use/recruit people that the ISI wont know about. This is an op where the skill of the operatives (both shooting and covert) is far more important than technology. ;)

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Paris Hilton

There goes the neighbourhood ?

I think not ! Don't think you can get Sky out there.

It used to be that you got a free council house with every dish. Those were the days, sigh. Now it's much harder with cable all over the place too. Things'll never be the same again !

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RE: @ Bryant - Correction

It seems the CIA did rent a house for initial observation in the area, and did use it as a base for "drive-by" scanning and electronic surveillance. It was observations from that house which seem to have jumped the interest up a notch and led to full-on electronic surveillance.

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If it did crash....

.... then the occupants have the work of a close relative of mine to thank. He was heavily involved in the crashworthyness engineering and testing for the Black Hawk. Auto fuel cut-offs, antisubmarine and progressive collapse seats, flight stick retraction, and inbuilt crumple zones combined with occupant cage strengthening etc. He was born in Yorkshire too.

Yes, a real shame he wasn't involved in the team responsible for actually keeping it flying.

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Pint

oh well

If it can't fly properly, 'tleast it can crash properly.

(I wonder... If they hushed its flying gear, did they hush its crashing gear as well?)

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Badgers

I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

Those US Naval Aviators don't have the happiets of times with aircraft do they.... don't they have a rep for dropping harriers as well?

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Everyone drops Harriers

AIUI they're not the easiest of beasts to fly. But they are a whole bunch easier than conventional deck landings - especially in pre angled deck days which were probably the riskiest form of flying about...

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Paris Hilton

How did it take off ?

If it's built like the proverbial 'brick shithouse' how on earth did it get off the ground in the first place ? Did they try lightweight flagstones for the cockpit/cabin floor and high tensile porcelain chimneys for the engine exhausts ? That might have worked.

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WTF?

They didn't use a drone

So they were seriously considering arresting him. Right?

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Black Helicopters

DNA tests

The drones aren't equipped to run DNA tests on the people they killed, they rather blow up their targets. So they couldntmake sure they just killed a bearded guy looking like Osama. Thats what I think at least.

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Not just on missions

The Aussies lost two Blackhawks and a lot of SAS troopers in a nightime training mission in 1998 or 1999 (I can't remember exact date). Not mechanical failure as far as I know, but I suspect there could be a lot more problems than we hear about.

Us non-mil types are only used to commercial flying which has much wider margins and a lot more time/leeway to cope with mechanical failures. At the sharper end, I think there is an expectation of technical problems - Operation Eagle Claw was planned with extra capacity to cope with some kind of technical problems, although that didn't help in the end.

Since there are no reports of US casualties, they seemed to have got the chopper down OK (whether mechanical or shot down hardly matters) and the Seals showed cool heads in blowing it up pretty effectively to only leave the tail rotor intact. Seems like they had ample spare lift capacity on the other three choppers to get everyone out, so - once again - planning for losses was part of the op.

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re: not just on missions

The aussie SAS crash (1996) was due to two Blackhawks clipping during a live-fire night training exercise. Terrible tragedy with 18 fatalities, but not mechanical failure. Survivng crew actually credited the construction of the blackhawk for getting out of the crash alive.

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what happened to NOTAR?

I don't know why they'd be mucking about with extra tail rotor blades to make it quieter when the NOTAR system was developed 20 years ago!

http://youtu.be/zkYlITEtKxI

It's hard to tell the absolute volume level from the video, but I saw a NOTAR flying overhead at 100 ft or so in Phoenix in the early 90's and it was vastly quieter than a standard Hughes 500.

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Control Authority?

I have a vague recollection talking to one of my instructors years ago that the NOTAR system didn't have the same control authority as a standard tail rotor and there's more control lag both of which may be more of an issue for a support helicopter. Additionally it takes more of the available power than a conventional system which leads to less carrying capacity.

Finally as it works by filling the tailboom with pressurised air and then blowing it out a slot on one side to develop a differential pressure there may be issues if you get holes in it which let air out where you don't want it.

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Black Helicopters

I'm sure I read in one of the many reports

that it was hit by an RPG by one of the guards but the pilot managed to still get it down pretty safely and it was then blown up.

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Joke

Blue Thunder

They wouldn't have had all these problems with Blue Thunder, that's for sure!

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