Why yes, you may ask about the stealth helicopters

RTR2LZQ11.jpegThe wreckage of a downed chopper, blown to smithereens by Navy Seals unwilling to leave it in foreign hands, was the last remnant of their mission left inside Osama Bin Laden's compound. It left under wraps, on the back of a truck laden with Pakistani soldiers. At Wired, David Axe offers a thorough guide to the high-tech mystery copter, and what aviation experts know about it.
Aviation specialists are picking apart pixel-by-pixel the dozen-or-so photos of the copter that have appeared online. They're assembling digital mock-ups of the aircraft and comparing them to lost stealth designs of the 1980s and '90s. Speculation abounds, and so far no one from the government is commenting. But depending on what the copter turns out to be, it could shed new light on everything from the abilities of U.S. commandos to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
Spoiler! Best guess is that it's an upgraded, stealth-optimized MH-60. Aviation Geeks Scramble to ID bin Laden Raid's Mystery Copter [Danger Room]


  1. Can we please start requiring all helicopters in areas such as Los Angeles county switch to stealth tech? I know, it’s my fault living so dang close to the 10/405 interchange..

    not sure they’d really be that much quieter, although the article says.. somewhat.. and.. no, I’d rather not foot the bill, and.. .well, I’d rather they just don’t fly the helicops at all, but what u gonna do

    1. I get woken up by helicopters in Palm Springs doing mountain rescues. They’re really loud, and the mountain just amplifies the noise.

    2. When I used to live on the top floor here, I found out very quickly that the medevac approach corridor for the hospital down the street went directly over my roof, and about sixty feet above it. The first time one passed over and I had the skylight open, it actually blew some papers off of my desk.

    1. That’s the million dollar question. And that answer will determine if Pakistan (who is that really?) is a friend, or foe. And greed at this point means foe.

  2. I love helicopters! I grew up near the shore and the sound of Coast Guard helicopters patrolling the beach during the summer were a big part of my childhood.

    But, when I live in Brooklyn now is right on the flight-path between any government big-wig landing at J.F.K. and then coming into Manhattan. So the sound of Chinooks really rocks things like crazy. Some were buzzing overhead yesterday and was louder than anything I can remember. Heck, after 9/11/2001 the sound of helicopters buzzing back and forth mixed in with the smell of smoke from Manhattan was a daily reminder of what happened for the next few months.

    1. As a veteran Coast Guardsman I am glad we had a positive influence on your childhood. Wish that the dam VIP’s would take cars and spend the money on replacement equipment for the USCG. When I was in on active duty we had a little under 87,000 men and women to do the jobs given the Coast Guard world wide. Today that number is down to less than 46,000 and the High Endurance Cutters which were approaching the end of their designed lifespan in the 1970s, are just now being retired. If you are at all involved in politics pleas push for additional funding for the life saving service. We could use the help!

      Shoot they do not even let us have sonar any more and now the druggies are running subs to bring the drugs in form SA!

      1. In the article; emphasis & all caps mine:

        According to a source who spoke to our own Spencer Ackerman, the modifications might have taken place with the help of a mysterious Army organization called the “Technology Applications Program Office,” located at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The rumored nickname? AIRWOLF. That’s right, like the cheesy ‘80 TV show.

        Jan Michael Vincent, your 2011 residual checks are going to be a wee bit fatter.

  3. It sure looks like these SEALs are much better at shooting terrorists than they are at destroying bleeding edge military technology. I realize completely destroying an entire aircraft on site in hostile territory isn’t easy, but they left enough of that tail section to reverse engineer the skin of this thing and a good portion of its rotor system.

    1. Even with a missile strike after the raid, the helicopter still would not have been 100% destroyed. There still would have been pieces scattered about that would be large enough for possible reverse-engineering. The main goal of planting demo charges and destroying the helicopter would be to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to reverse-engineer all the really sensitive high-tech components in the nose / cockpit area.

  4. That guy who live tweeted it heard them just fine. Don’t know how stealthy that makes them.

    1. Mostly stealthy in terms of radar (not as much as a fixed-wing aircraft could be), possibly somewhat quieter and harder to see at night.

    2. I wonder if the helicopter loudness was related to the helicopter having mechanical issues, rather than them being exceptionally noisy by default.

    3. I’m willing to bet he only heard them because their flight path to the compound to them reasonably close to his home. Being “stealthy” doesn’t mean they’re completely silent. As anyone who’s ever heard a regular helicopter, even a small one, knows; they are fucking loud. So you can imagine how loud a normal military copter like a Blackhawk might be given their size, speed and lifting capabilities (able to carry a four-man flight crew + 10 or more heavily armed passengers etc.).
      I think that, even if the helicopter(s) used in the raid had their rotor / engine sounds muffled by 25-50%, they would have the distance at which they could be heard reduced dramatically. That alone would make them “stealthy”. Then, of course, you’d have to factor in other features that would serve to reduce their radar and thermal signatures as well. So these helos were definitely stealthy variants if not entirely new designs.

      1. Its probably like a silencer. From what I have heard (pardon pun) they are not at all like the movies. Most guns are freakin’ loud. With a silencer they are still loud, just less so, and less localized so hard to figure out which direction it is coming from. This would mean that if you flying around in a stealthy chopper, perhaps your cone of noise isn’t so large, and it is harder to tell which direction they are coming from.

        Likely it also has some radar signature properties as well.

  5. It looks like it’s a drone copter. It doesn’t look big enough to hold any passengers. Video equipment maybe?

  6. Someone should question Donald Trump. He has claimed to have trained and lead the SEAL team which eliminated Osama bin Laden; Trump has also stated that he singlehandedly designed and built the helicopters used for such military operations. Though Robert Luldlum has yet to be asked, Trump has repeatedly told reporters that the character of Jason Bourne was inspired by Trump’s exploits for various unnamed government agencies.

  7. Airwolf – Ernest Borgnine – McHale’s Navy – US Navy Seals.

    It’s a perfect connection.

  8. I remember reading about stealth chopper tech back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. It was exciting stuff at the time, and they said one of the benefits of the stealth design was that the main rotor didn’t blow oil all over the place (that’s a common problem for conventional helicopters). I’d love to see a stealth chopper, even if it meant I could never talk about it. Just to hear exactly how quiet they really are.

    Of course, I hope that I ever do get to hear one, it won’t be for all the wrong reasons.

  9. Is that a real picture? If so, its obviously a drone w/ stealthy characteristics. Which means no chopper went down that was carrying actual troops, thank god. Possibly a Boeing Hummingbird? They have stubby little wings in some versions, if Google pics isn’t lying.

  10. Not a lot to go by, but yeah, the tail section is about the right size for a Blackhawk, albeit certainly not one of the the standard models. The tail rotor isn’t shrouded (too big a change, maybe?), but otherwise resembles that on some of the stealth-chopper designs that appear now and then.

  11. It was a pair of modified Knighthawks. When the first went down on arrival, they immediately sent in a backup Knighthawk, which was probably on station near the border. You can be sure the chopper was pre-packed with explosives, so it could be destroyed immediately should the need arise.

  12. I’m curious, are the Pakistanis returning the chopper parts at once, or are they keeping them to study them? They’re barely our ally and I’m sure Russia would pay good money for the parts. Are we getting screwed on this or what?

  13. What a letdown to find it’s just the tail section. I was imagining SEAL team 6 as a bunch of midget clowns, 20 of which could fit into a VW. Actually midgets would make badass commandos, running through the air vents and climbing down the chimney.

  14. Clearly it’s a tail rotor, you can’t see the rest, because you’re not supposed to. It’s a stealth helo.

  15. To him, the paint on the wrecked chopper appeared to be a “variation on the Invisible Loach — a light-emitting appliqué film which, coupled to directional cameras, will exactly reproduce the light and color patterns on the opposite side of the aircraft. Think of the aircraft as being made of glass.”

    Wonder Woman killed Bin Laden?

  16. Stealth helicopters, Pakistan playing a double-game, meh…

    The real fun’ll be what’s in the laptop(s) – I’d wager Saudi intelligence agencies’ll be outed as co-conspirators, & right in the middle of the ‘Arab Spring’ too.

  17. Three stealth helicopters against one old man – and one of em lost in action.

    Dang, that old man kicks some ass.

  18. Is it normal for helicopters to crash, and the occupants to just walk off without injury?

    1. Depends, mostly on the height. After a certain height one can disengage the rotor and autogyrate, tilting the craft forward to start the rotor spinning through air resistance, then flaring back on the stick at the end and pulling up on the collective to gain enough lift at the end to slow the speed. We had a great example here in New York when a tourist copter fell in the river about five years ago and all survived.

      Not enough altitude to speed up the rotor in time: Crash.
      Flare too soon: Crash.
      Flare too late: Crash.
      Not enough flare to limit forward speed: Crash.

      However, the reports sounded like the copter had trouble on liftoff, which greatly increases survivability, since they weren’t in the air at the time.

      As my brother likes to mention about choppers, they’re a thousand parts moving in opposite directions all trying to fail at the same time. Military gear has a lot of redundancies built in but there’s a reason they put in the “Situation Normal” section of SNAFU.

      1. I’ve heard a lot of Air Cavalry guys refer to helicopters as “Several thousand spare parts flying in close formation’

    2. Is it normal for helicopters to crash, and the occupants to just walk off without injury?

      The helicopter didn’t crash. It landed. It could not take off for some reason. So they abandoned it and blew it up.

  19. There’s a guy named Tom Scocca over on Slate who says this accident is proof that Black Hawks (all of them) are unreliable, unsafe, should never be used, and are a huge waste of money.

    Apparently we should only buy aircraft that are impossible to crash. Maybe we should also only hire soldiers who are impossible to shoot.

    1. Maybe the best solution is to get a group of overprotective parents (aka: “Helicopter Parents”) together and ask how they would childproof a gunship.

      After a few months you’ll get something bulbous, colorful, soft and lame that might have a few pieces of green plastic mixed in “for the environment.”

    2. Well, it’s more about how even for the specialist of missions the Special Forces still don’t have a chopper they can trust (the Blackhawk came about out of the failed 1980 hostage mission). But it seems to me that they did plan for at least one to fail, which you’d probably want to do anyway, should they have come under fire.

      However, he seems to be implying we’re not getting our money’s worth out of the ’60 and I’d like to see actual numbers of flights versus failures instead of taking two highly written about cases and claiming “we need a new better one!”

      1. Just be glad they didn’t use an Osprey. That thing has taken out more American troops than most terror cells could ever hope for.

        1. The Osprey: A bad idea followed by worse execution. I mean, when Dick Cheney tries to kill your overfunded military program you have a problem. I mean, the Marines decided it didn’t need any autorotation capabilities because it kept failing. That will bite a lot of people in their flaming asses by the end of this.

  20. Thanks for the free introductory course to helicopter. Most I’ve learned on here in awhile. But I still vote blackout.

  21. hrmm, was wondering what kept destroying my rabbitry…
    From the pictures it appears the rotor section is made from laminate ‘stealth’ material associated with reduced radar and possibly IR signatures. From the look of those blades I’d also say they have been constructed to work with minimal sound and vibration. Not the cheap stuff. But then again, the guys at MythBusters could fabricate something that looks exactly like this photo in about three days or so…eh.

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