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 …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

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

    ... or not according to!/ReallyVirtual

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

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

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      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.

    2. ravenviz

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

      Maybe he could see it?

  2. Pete 2

    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.

    1. fatchap


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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Marvin the Martian

        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.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          And a night out with a naval officer?

          Oh, I'll come in again...

        2. Nick G

          Type something witty here...

          and nice green uniforms..

        3. bazza Silver badge

          Do their helicopters...

          ...have comfy chairs?

          1. Graham Dawson

            Comfy chairs?

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

  3. Christoph Silver badge

    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?

  4. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    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...

    1. Steve Gill

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


    3. Tom 13

      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.

      1. Charles Manning

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If not shot down

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

    4. oddie

      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 :)

  5. Anonymous Coward

    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]

  6. Anonymous Coward
    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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      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.

      1. Jan 0

        A (letter) 1 (digit)

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

      2. Pan Narrans

        ... and a bit less Gung ho

        Remember, these are Americans you're talking about

  7. Rich 30


    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?

  8. Desk Jockey
    Black Helicopters


    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!

    1. Ross 7

      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?...

    2. Tom 13

      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.

      1. Brian Morrison


        ....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.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Vortex Ring State

          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...

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Oh, crap

            That's pulling not pooling...

        2. Charles Manning

          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.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      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.....

      1. Desk Jockey

        @ 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. ;)

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          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.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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 !

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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?)

      1. IsJustabloke

        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?

        1. JimC

          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...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  10. Johan Bastiaansen

    They didn't use a drone

    So they were seriously considering arresting him. Right?

    1. r4co0n
      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.

  11. 100113.1537

    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.

    1. Argus Tuft

      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.

  12. Bruce Hoult

    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!

    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.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      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.

  13. Andy Hards
    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.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Blue Thunder

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

  15. K. Adams
    Black Helicopters

    Blue Thunder wannabe?

    Don't laugh... A lot of real-life technology inspiration comes from film and television:

    -- Flip-phones = Star Trek (Original Series) communicators (depicted throughout the show)

    -- 3.5-inch diskettes = Star Trek (Original Series) "data plates" (depicted in the two-part episode "The Menagerie," when Spock uses recordings of Kirk's voice to commandeer the Enterprise)

    -- Very-high-density optical video storage = Rising Sun (w/ Sean Connery, depicted in 1993; the DVD format was released in Japan in late 1996/early 1997, and released world-wide in 1998, followed by HD-DVD and Blu-ray in 2006; Blu-ray won)

    1. Ty Cobb

      Yes but

      So far it seems to be a Pyrrhic victory

    2. ravenviz

      Re: Blue Thunder wannabe?

      Do you have a list of film inventions that didn't make it to reality?

    3. Stuart Moore

      Hang on a bit...

      OK, the first two I'm not going to argue with - but are you seriously trying to tell me that the DVD was inspired by a film, not just someone thinking "ere, these CD thingys - do you think we could squeeze a bit more data on them?"

  16. rabidclock


    They could have avoided the need for comms retrans by using an omnidirectional antenna on C band like what Iridium or Thuraya uses for voice and data. There would be latency issues regardless. They probably also had a contingency plan to destroy the compound should something catastrophic happen as well, less likely to be a drone and more likely to be a larger manned aircraft that could be the eyes in the sky, precision bomber, and retrans as well.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ya don't need a dish 'here' if you have a big enough dish 'there'

    Think about it. Hint: 'National Technical Means.'

  18. dssf

    Crashed Helo

    Another report or suggestion was that trash around the compound may have caused FODding of the engines. But, yeh, if the others got into the compound without mishap, the RPG or heavy gunfire may have brought it down or the pilot may have simply gone evasive and hit the wall trying to commit to the landing.

    1. John Sturdy
      Black Helicopters

      Now there's an idea

      If I ever have to hide in a secret compound, I'll keep lots of rubbish in it, to FOD any helicopters that come to get me. Maybe some Icelandic volcanic ash for good measure!

  19. Mike Powers

    It wasn't necessarily a failure

    Do we have confirmation that it was a failure? It's possible that they didn't so much "crash" as "intentionally land so hard that it broke the chopper, just to get on the ground that much more quickly".

    Sort of like a Space Marine Drop Pod.

    1. ChrisC

      Deliberately crashing

      Son of Son Tay, you mean...

    2. Alan Firminger


      The discussion far above about noise ignores the detail that a chopper descending is much quieter than in hover. Could be that the first one in went down a bit too quietly, I can understand why.

  20. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    The really funny bit?

    It's been over 24 hours since the news broke and that rabid Fishhead Page hasn't been on to tell us, just because the SEALs used choppers, we don't need Typhoons! Maybe he's trying to work out how he can spin it so it was actually the Navy, using "special" Tomahawk missiles, fired from a sub..... XD

  21. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    Newspaper said it was an RPG...

    ...that downed the downed chopper.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    ok a bit of handwaving here... but...

    From pics published it looks like the heli in question landed with it's tail on the wrong side of the compound wall.

    This is a lot like an accident involving an Australian SeaHawk doing a hot flare onto a frigate when it clipped the tail and went over the side.

    Is it plausible that the helis were doing a high rate-of-decent landing that might have been somewhat quieter than a standard landing, possibly even auto-rotating?

    OK, back to my beer.

    1. dssf

      Autogyrating? False Walls, and shot unarmed...

      "s it plausible that the helis were doing a high rate-of-decent landing that might have been somewhat quieter than a standard landing, possibly even auto-rotating?"

      I posited that same theoriy/supposition but it wasn't bought. It appears the story is that they fast-roped in. But, I think that fastroping means they have to concentrate on firing in all directions without causing friendly fire to themselves or the helo. It also means they have to avoid roping down too hard and breaking a leg and ending up dead. I presume the helo landed fast and hard and offered shelter from incoming non-RPG fire until they would bolt for the compound.

      Also, it seems that OBL never played Half-Life, Counter Strike, or the like. Nor did he, apparently, watch any Vietnam War related movies. Hamburger Hill, one soldier runs and falls into a stake pit, with 7 or 8 of them piercing him. No hope for rescue or recovery. But, a pit with only a FEW stakes and which has delated fuse would take out the initailly trapped as well as the rescuer.

      All those false walls are pointless if they don't ensare or disable or take out the entrant. Anyone laying paint that is detectable only by one's specifically-tuned night optics will be able to backtrack out of and avoid reentering dead ends.

      Half Life is known for campers. Those with severe lag end up having no choice but to camp and lay satchel bombs and trip mines. That way, the uninitiated get a taste of their own medicine before the player with laggy and crappy graphics blacks out and respawns.

      He fought and killed assymetrically, yet, neither he nor his guards apparently learned from playing Wester FPS games.... Major fail...

  23. Paul 135


    If this had been a British helicopter Lewis Page would probably be describing the extra tail-rotor blades as "an ineffective waste of money", or something to that effect. However since this is American, Lewis likes to drool all over it...

    1. Anonymous Coward


      To be fair had it been a British chopper. It would have been hand crafted from purest unobtanium and either still on the designers drawing board or grounded for lack of spares.

      Either way it would have already cost a million billion pounds each MORE than the most expensive US helly-co-peter.

      Thats why we will soon be running future transport arcraft that cost more to purchase and run than a space shuttle.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Paul135

        "To be fair had it been a British chopper...." If it had of been a British designed and built chopper, it would be like the Lynx - a World-record holder, a battle-proven and valued system with good inernational sales, and yet still rubbished at every opportunity by Fishhead Page (even though one area the Lynx has proven itself so well has been in Naval service).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Surely with the length of time available to plan this (which was apparently enough to create full mockups of the compound to train on for several weeks), they should have launched the attack from the ground? Sneak your top men in a day or two before and spread them out around the town. At d-day you all head to the compound, over the wall and inside before anyone has been woken up by the racket.

    Then send in the choppers once the bad guys are all dead to get you all out.

    Stealthy choppers are not as stealthy as some men in camo hiding in the bushes, and not as quiet as sneaking about in your plimsols.

    If Bin Laden had an escape tunnel, he'd have had plenty of time to use it.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      One problem

      How long do you think it would take to uncover some 'merkin commandos trying to mix up with the locals in the middle of Paykistayn? Especially in camo...

      That would have been hilarious though!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        mixing with the locals

        Vladimir, the SAS frequently do insertions that require them to secrete themselves in very close proximity to targets on the ground in enemy territory, as do many other special forces. Such training includes taking everything you need with you, and carrying your crap and piss out in bags so as to leave no sign of where you were. OBL's compound was most definitely not in a highly urban area, it was surrounded by various fields and undergrowth, as well as other buildings, and the general vicinity would not have had any particular level of security that should be an issue for special forces to avoid.

        If you can have guys on the ground in central bagdad pointing lasers at Saddam's palaces on the first night of a widely expected war, you can certainly creep them up within a mile or two of this house in Pakistan. You don't need to be right next door, only close enough to reach it within a few minutes by vehicle.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I hate to tell you all this...

    ...but Osama dies years ago of ill health.

    Whatever the charade was all about the other day, it sure weren't about getting Osama...

  26. John 62
    Black Helicopters

    Heat signature? Learn from Murdock!

    Murdock in the new A-Team proved that you don't need fancy heat signature reduction tech. Just turn off your engines a second before the heat seeker hits!

    Now, when's District 10 coming out?

  27. Dennis Healey

    Spanish Inquisition!

    NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

  28. Ray 8


    Did he hear Flight of the Valkyries before he met his virgin in paradise?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


      That will be virgins, in plural.

  29. Dom 3

    'nam era stealth chopper

    Good article here:

    More discussion of this one here:

  30. Charles Smith

    Where was the Duke of Cambridge at the time...?

    No doubt he'll claim he was at home sleeping with the missus. Note he's never crashed a heli.

  31. John Sinclair

    Helicopter Shmelicopter

    Helicopters my ass. Helicopter like bits to throw you off the scent of course but they used something else.

    Probably why they lost the uplink during the killing as it distorts EM around it, ..... apparently. :)

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019