Home » News » Army » The MH-60 Crash At Bin Laden’s House

The MH-60 Crash At Bin Laden’s House

by John Reed on May 2, 2011

A variety of factors could have led to the crash or “hard landing” of one of the helicopters that helped carry out the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden yesterday. First off, we’ve heard reports that the choppers used in the raid, which apparently involved a total of about 40 operators, were a mix of MH-60 Black Hawks and MH-47 Chinooks. Both of which are flown by the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The AFP picture above shows what appears to be the tail section of an MH-60 draped over a wall at Bin Laden’s compound. There are still no reports of U.S. casualties during the raid, which is impressive given the image above.

A mix of Black Hawks to carry in the initial assault teams (roughly 24 SEALs) and the larger Chinooks to bring in supporting troops as well as carry away any prisoners makes sense. Keep in mind that the crew and passengers of the downed chopper had to pile onto another bird (probably a Chinook) to make their exit.

In any case, a chopper on final approach to a raid insertion could have been forced down by small arms fire (a lucky shot to the gearbox), brownout conditions where dust kicked up from the rotor wash interfere with the pilot’s ability to see, or it could have clipped some of the nearby power lines you can see in these pictures of the site (although there don’t appear to be any downed lines) or a combination of all factors. Or maybe, it really was mechanical failure. Keep in mind the raid was conducted around 1:00 in the morning so they were using night vision goggles. This goes to show just how tough missions like this are, even for the pilots of the 160th, whose skills are legendary in the helo community. Those pilots have also had weeks, at the minimum, to practice the mission at a site that was built to reflect the compound and its environs. So they probably knew where any potential obstacles were and how to avoid them.

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{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

@Brianckramer May 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I heard somewhere (can't remember where) that it was a loss of lift due to the high walls. Anyone know about the effects of large walls/structures on helo performance? Seems like at least it would cause some buffeting/ control difficult landing in an enclosed courtyard.

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Vstress May 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

When you have walls, there is no given way the helicopter will react, all walls vary in height/slope/slope of ground etc. It is possible to have been the cause to make the flying more difficult… couple that will a whole bunch of helicopters landing simultaneously and you have a recipe for very difficult flying conditions.

To be honest, unless it is enemy fire, I will bet that there will be no conclusive outcome apart from something along the lines of "difficult flying conditions". Try out flying a difficult flight sim mission (one which attempts to model actual aircraft dynamics, ie microsoft flight sim) with a helicopter then multiply the difficulty by a large factor!

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A. Nonymous May 2, 2011 at 5:58 pm

If you want an accurate impression of difficult flying conditions, Microsoft flight sim won't get you there. Its ability to accurately model a helicopter is marginal at best. X-Plane is a much better choice. And I'd be much more concerned about the terraced buildings in the compound and the power lines than the walls. Having 1/3 of your main rotor IGE and 2/3 of the rotor OGE makes for "interesting" flying. The power lines are almost invisible during daylight, I can only imagine how hard it would be to avoid them at night.

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@Earlydawn May 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Could you define IGE and OGE? I gather that it has something to do with ground effect. Sorry, I'm more familiar with fixed wing terminology.

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Curt May 3, 2011 at 2:37 am

IGE – In Ground Effect (where the rotorwash reflected from the ground effects the rotors).
OGE – Outside Ground Effect (where the rotors are not effected by the rotorwash reflected from the ground) . Hence the term HOGE when they are discussing hovering outside ground effects.
Just like an airplane, IGE normally provides more lift, but in an irregular, confined space the asymetrical lift can be very challenging for the pilot.

JR guy June 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm

IGE and OGE (Out of Ground Effect) are compensated for both through blade flapping and cyclic feathering through control inputs either via pilot and/or a mechanical or other means controlled by the helicopter. The blades don't care if it's OGE and half IGE, they will react on the forces places upon them to compensate…depending on the mounting system of the blades. Judging by the "Secrecy" and expense of this aircraft I would bet it is a fully rigid system. Hovering at high altitudes/high temps, high-G maneuvers, low airspeed are conducive to the onset of retreating blade stall which is what has been described in reports. Since it was night time I'm not sure how valid the temp issue would be. Now if they got caught in downwash from other aircraft I would believe that, essentially making it nearly impossible to predict. I would venture to guess with all the planning and money involved with this mission there were variables out of the pilots control ie. enemy fire, brown/blackout, wind gust, sheering …I would guess there would be a FLIR, GPS, Radar Alt, and other who knows what top secret instruments aiding in landing in those cases of brown/blackout. Hovering near solid objects doesn't seem to be an issue as far as I've seen. Think about masking and unmasking near tree-lines, ridges, mountains, buildings. Military and rescue copters do this maneuver all the time.

Ateam May 3, 2011 at 5:59 am

Remember the secret military sat launched a few weeks ago?

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Richard May 3, 2011 at 10:32 am

No, the article said Army Black Hawk MH-60. The Pave Hawks are USAF HH-60G. Same body frame but one is air refuelable.

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Richard May 3, 2011 at 10:42 am

Previous comment entered by mistake. The news showed a detail how the hawk landed and what had happen was on touchdown was to close to the wall and main rotor blades made contact on wall…….. What I'm wondering is why did aircrew attempt do lift off with damage blades, instead of shutdown engines when they had more helicopters for back-up.

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Edd May 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Its called "Loss of wind effect". Basically the extra lift generated by wind goes away due to high surroundings, and if the pilot does not add extra power they will hit the deck hard.

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john May 6, 2011 at 4:43 am

its called settling with power, a phenomenon which can be exacerbated by the walls not allowing the main rotor downwash to spread out… the net effect is the helicopter settling into its own downwash (turbulent air) this leads to increased "wingtip vortices" and eventually total loss of lift

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FormerDirtDart May 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm

There is also the possibility that the "hard landing" was a mission designed event, in the same way a helicopter was essentially crash landed into the prison compound during the Son Tay raid.

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SoilsEngineer May 11, 2011 at 11:37 pm

This was no planned operation to ditch a helicopter into that walled compound. Period.

Anyone who believes the US would willingly and deliberately expose a technology edge to donate to Pakistan and China is a little behind the curve. Also, this was no "low and fast pilot error". These pilots had plenty of before-hand knowledge of the strike and have certainly practiced this approach and landing option.

There is no sane way that US tacticians would plan end execute this outcome. This was not "the pilot misjudged a little and hit the wall" it was the best he could do with a big problem. More than most likely this is what you call "lead in the engine" the engines and drivetrain are the weaknesses in these machines.

This is either the result of "lead in the engine" or a known helicopter peculiarity called "hot and high" which is exacerbated in ground-effect over obstructions and flowbreaks like walls. These are clearly the the only reasonable potential causes for the outcome here.

Also, one of the most revealing aspects I'm not sure anyone has noticed came from the photos of the wreckage IN the yard on the other side of the wall. Study of the rotorhead wreckage and the yokes in the visible taildrive train shows it's clearly a blackhawk or derivative but there are some other very interesting and telling clues in even just these few pictures!

Also notable are some of the things that are "missing"! Note the station cross-sections at the 'break' and compare with known examples of Blackhawk prototypes or fitted with "hush-Kits".

Also, there is a question of that helicopter being operated by a DoD element OTHER than the US navy. But what do I know? Heh.

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Jonathan May 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

If they blew the helicopter up wouldnt there be scorch marks and a destroyed wall? The wall is perfectly intact and not a scorch mark to be seen.

This whole location and timeline is confusing and things like this make me doubt the official story. They just love fueling cospiracies I guess.

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Jimmy May 2, 2011 at 3:52 pm

scorch marks could be on the inside of the wall? I wasn't there of course so….

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Guest May 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Maybe they came in hot, hit the tail on the wall, and snapped it off. The rest of it probably hit the deck and bounced into the center of the compound. It's not rocket science, there's no conspiracy. If you know anything about helicopters, certain components are made to come off in a "controlled" crash. They also only needed enough demolitions to insure certian black boxes were not recovered so there's not going to be a huge action movie type explosion and there is nothing sensitive in the tail that they needed to demolish.

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Alex May 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

The are pictures of Pakistani military trucks hauling away burnt debris, fractured and charred rotor blades can be sticking out the back of one truck

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Brian Black May 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

Some people are more easily confused than others, Jonathan.

The burning helicopter was shown on TV, at least the flames from behind what looked like the wall in this picture.

I've read some of your other comments too. You seem to be muddling reasonable speculation about the operation with official press releases. Some threads and comments on this site and elsewhere contain speculative information which doesn't necessarily match the actual events. Don't get so worried about everything, have a cup of tea and watch something other than the TV news.

If you keep stirring up trouble, they'll come to get you too! You don't want to end up dumped in the ocean alongside Osama, do you?

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S. Holmes May 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm

In fact there is a photo from "inside" the compound that shows scorching on walls and burnt out wreckage. What surprises me is the lack of wreckage; whatever is there is completely burnt out literally ashes, even the engines seem to have disappeared. The tail section was on other side of the wall i.e. outside the compound, hence it is relatively intact and it can be seen that the helicopter had some stealth technology to reduce its radar cross section.

Another question, how did a Chinook land in the compound ? Compound is big but not that big to allow for large helicopters to land. Crashed helo did not clip the walls otherwise a part of the wall might be broken.

There are a lot of questions to be answered in this one.

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Brian May 6, 2011 at 2:44 am

The helicopter was blown up internally (explosives packed inside it primarily intended to destroy sensitive equipment) and the tail section you see is on the opposite side of the wall (the tail was sheared off by the wall in the crash). Put a firecracker, or even an m-80 in a soup can, set it off on the ground. The only scorch marks will be inside the can.

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YanniT May 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm

One picture is all that is shown, and its clearly only the tail which must have seperated from the fuselage. Where is the rest of the wreckage?

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califrat May 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

The rest of the wreckage is in the hands of the Pakistani military.

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Jon June 21, 2012 at 11:48 am

Negative the U.S. blew the rest up.

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BombsOverRabdad May 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

They may have just blew up some of the avionics or coms gear and not actually blew up the whole helo

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Vstress May 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Agreed… there are only a few things in the helicopter that are "secret" and they will mostly be the cockpit/sensor suite/jammer suite/comms so destruction doesn't require that much effort!

I'm a bit gutted they didn't use the usual JDAM on the target instead though… could have rounded off the mission with a nice finish : )

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CarterY May 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

One question so far unanswered: how did four helicopters enter and exist Pakistan without alerting air defense systems? I know that twin rotor Chinooks make a lot of noise, and OBL's compound was not in the middle of nowhere like Vietnam's Son Tay prison or Desert One in Iran. Given the proximity to the Pakistani military college, I'd assume that air defense missiles were around to ward off Indian air strikes. Is it possible that the Pakistani military was told to stand down in some way?

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Davi Ottenheimer May 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

The helicopters and troops were stationed in Ghazi already (35 miles North West of Islamabad) — a US Marine operation to provide humanitarian assistance inside Pakistan last August during the floods.

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CarterY May 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Wouldn't non-USMC helicopters (MH-60, MH-47) at Ghazi raise suspicions? Other reports suggest that the raid was launched from Bagram.

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anon May 9, 2011 at 8:58 am

Definitely, especially if they are ultra-fancy stealth helicopters.

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@Earlydawn May 3, 2011 at 10:01 am

The obvious answer is that there was no huge covert operation to disable the radar network. It's the same arrangement as the drone strikes. Pakistan gets extremely limited warning (aircraft on the way), and, in exchange, gets to bitch about it through the international media.

In all seriousness, it's a relationship that fulfills objectives for both sides.

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Brian Black May 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

The US has already stated that Pakistani air defences were alerted to an unidentified airspace intrusion, and scrambled jets in response.

I've not heard any mention of it, but I assume the US would have had the means and the will to take down any Pakistani aircraft that threatened the mission and American lives. This could easily have turned into a major diplomatic nightmare.

Considering this, and the fact that there had not been any visual confirmation of OBL presence at the compound prior to the operation, then maybe that Obama fellow has a big pair of balls afterall.

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Blain2 May 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

No such thing happened. The American helis and SF teams are based periodically at Ghazi-Tarbela base which is the home of Pakistan's Special Operations Forces – Special Service Group and also the Special Operations Task Force (SOTF). The SOTF has been heavily utilized in operations against the Taliban and is an air assault unit with integrated Bell 412s and MI-17s. The Pakistani SOTF and the JSOC have had a fairly long relationship and all initial reports that indicated that these helis took off from Tarbela are correct.
Pakistani air defences maintain a pretty dense radar coverage of the areas where Abbottabad is due to its proximity to the Kashmir hotpoint with India. The US helicopters did not fly from Afghanistan undetected. This was done with cooperation and full collusion of Pakistani assets in terms of planning and on the ground. The Director General of the ISI was in DC just 2 weeks ago where some of these details were worked out. This is essentially the spiel from insiders on the other side of the story (I.e. Paks).

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Brian May 6, 2011 at 2:49 am

Considering that most of Pakistan's military equipment has been provided by us, shooting at our aircraft would be a poor decision.

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patrick May 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Does anybody else think that the tail section does not look like an MH-60. The tail planes are canted rearwards and the MH-60's are basically square.

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Eric May 2, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Has to be a MH-60 since this section has a tailplane on it, while the MH-47 does not.

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george May 3, 2011 at 9:21 am

I dont believe it is an MH-60 either. I flew Ah-64 apaches for 10 years and have been around these helicopters… it doesnt seem right to me

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Eric May 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Maybe they are using modified tail booms and rotors on the SO helos. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if they are.

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Brian May 6, 2011 at 2:46 am

It was a Stealth MH-60. This accounts for the strange shaped tail and the extra rotor blades, intended to reduce noise associated with helicopters.

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John May 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

There are other articles you can read to clear up this question. The Helo was modified for less radar signature, to include the swept (canted rearwards) tail wings.

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jamesb May 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Ok…I wonder who the Helo drivers where…..

Army Special Ops…..

I'll bet some Air Force Pj's where in the mix….

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Derek May 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Seriously? It says it in the article: 160th SOAR. They are Special Ops which specialize in helicopter aviation.

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jamesb May 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

wondered…sorry…

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Byron Skinner May 2, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Good Evening Folks,

To CarterY. Think the F-16CJ. You really don’t think that an operation of three UH-60 and a CH-47 that crossed nearly half of a “hostile” country went in alone do you.

The F-16CJ can shut down an Air Defense Missile System, and has on several occasions since 1999.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

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phrogdriver May 3, 2011 at 1:35 am

The CJ shuts them down primarily by shooting HARMS at them. I don't think we're willing to do that to the Pakis. An EA-6B or F/A-18G would be a better choice. However, jamming the radars would tip the Pakistanis off about an op. More like it was just old-fashioned NOE flying, in my opinion. Paki IADS aren't THAT good.

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Curt May 3, 2011 at 2:42 am

Or, on the other hand, Pakinstan let us fly in.

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Josh May 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

The CJ isn't an insertion jamming aircraft. It also can't "shut down" air defenses. It carries missles to take out radar sites… not exactly subtle.

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Blain2 May 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Again, nothing of such dramatic proportions transpired. The Pakistanis maintain tiered air defences. One is ground based radar coverage and the other is through Swedish Erieye AEW&C platforms which provide a very robust, secure and jam resistant radar coverage. The American helicopters, had they come from Afghanistan would have been detected inside Afghanistan because of the Over The Horizon detection capability.

The US helicopters went to the location from a Pakistani base and after the completion of the op left the country working fully in coordination with Pakistani intelligence and air defence (Air Force personnel).

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phrogdriver May 4, 2011 at 1:35 am

News reports seem to indicate the Pakis weren't read in on this.

While nations like Pakistan claim to have layered IADS, they rarely are in a general state of training or alert to prevent incursions by a capable adversary, especially when it's coming from a direction other than India.

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Tim May 2, 2011 at 10:50 pm

On Defense Talk, there is a report that Chinese media (Xinhua) stated that it was Pakistanese forces that "got" OBL and the US forces only went in to retrieve the body.

One can trust that report as much as… Pakistan's swearing not to harbor any terrorists in their country. Is China getting nervous now that OBL is gone and the US finally can refocus on issues in Asia, particularly the South China Sea?

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Matt May 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm

It definitely looks like that tail rotor is on one side of the wall and the main airframe is on the other, as you can see there is still a driveshaft attached to something over the top of the wall.

Thermite grenades would not blow the tail rotor over the wall. High walls should create greater backpressure beneath the aircraft as rotor wash cannot escape as readily. Could the pilot have been forced to reduce rotor spin to allow controlled descent to the point of a stall? Could this have fouled the airflow to the engines with exhaust causing a stall?

I am sure my terms are off, but you get the physics of what I am describing. Any helo pilots have an opinion?

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Dennis May 3, 2011 at 1:36 am

I'm a fixed wing pilot, not a helicopter pilot. But, I was thinking out loud with a friend about what the hell could have happened and I stumbled on a theory. While the helicopter was hovering over the walled area, it created a cushion of air that could not escape thereby creating greater ground effect conditions. I bet that the helicopter then floated a bit over to the side and one side of the rotor went beyond the walled compound area which would take just that side out of ground effect. At that point, there would be unequal lift on one side of the helicopter's rotor and cause the side over the wall to drop. Sounds good, huh?

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phrogdriver May 3, 2011 at 1:39 am

You can't "reduce rotor spin" without pulling engines back out of "fly." That's not something one does until on the ground. The only way the walls could have played a factor are 1) hitting them or 2) loss of wind effect. If winds were high, it would reduce power required until the aircraft passed below the top, at which point power required would go up. The walls appear too short for that to be a factor.

A hard landing could have occurred for a variety of reasons, the aircraft could have hit an obstacle, or a mechanical failure could have occurred. Hard to say. We're all just engaging in idle speculation here.

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David May 9, 2011 at 3:34 am

The UH-60 is not desind to auto-rotate. That is why when the crash they go down hard.

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MH-60AV8R May 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

That's a false statement. Blackhawks autorotate extremely well. However, long range requires long range fuel. So these may have been very heavy, definitely affecting an auto unless your flight control blade angles are not rigged properly. Now if high collective blade angles are low, and the attitude of the airframe in flight requires a high collective blade pitch input that's not there due to faulty rigging, then sure, it'll autorotate like a rock. Way, way too many variables here folks, to be 2nd guessing. The NightStalkers of the 160th are the finest helicopter drivers and operators on the planet. If they crashed it, then conditions were present that required no other option than to put the Acft on the deck. Doesn't matter why. Checkmate NightStalkers Baby!

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Cyborgmudhen May 3, 2011 at 1:26 am

It's an MH-60, no doubt.
Flying with ESSS (external stores support system- tanks) is not really feasible for an op like this. IFR is the way to go, though I'm not sure the distances involved this time would require that.
I've got some time in Blackhawks and can assure you that LTE ( loss of tail rotor effectiveness ) is pretty uncommon, even when you are heavy . High alt and high weight can change this some, but a low wall can't. The tail rotor on a 'Hawk is one of the most powerful in the world.
Know that 160th SOAR specializes in long range, night time penetrations. Simply put, it's 'what they do'.

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lcdr Kent May 3, 2011 at 7:05 am

Its good everyone got in & out without losses. Since the Desert One disaster (1980) and other helo failures; we should have a system the works in critical condictions.
I guess the V-22s were not up to the task or appropriate for the operation.

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Alton May 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

Gawd, Much to much cost if the D— thing had to put down and for some reason couldn't get airborne again. Bet they blew up all the ECM gear (and 'nap of the earth' navigation gear too) on board the helo they left behind, so all they got was junk, (maybe a 'Kilroy was here' card). Think they probably had a fwd fuel depot somewhere out there too. Guess it was a hot time in 'Aspenabad' for awhile there though.
"Hey Abdul. You know there's a party going on over there in the OBL compound and we ain't been invited?". "Humph, after all this time and the dirty no good, two bit four flushing so and so didn't invite us. Think we ought to crash it?" Nah. we'll get even somehow. Ooops, everybody is leaving, think it's a raid?"

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blight May 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Going point regarding forward fuel: that was the whole point of the Desert One landing site, to refuel helicopters for the final push to Tehran. You'd think with aerial refuelling you wouldn't need it anymore, but then it raises questions of how many aircraft you bring with you to the op: you need some that deliver fuel and return home, and more aircraft to refuel your helicopters on the way back.

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Brian Black May 3, 2011 at 8:41 am

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the pilot just knocked the tail into the wall whilst landing. No matter how experienced the pilot, or how well rehearsed the mission, errors of judgement are easily made. Current NVG still offer only a narrow field of view which will hamper the pilot’s awareness – that could be sufficient on its own to cause the accident, or an unexpected obstacle could have blocked the practised landing areas. Such an accident, at low level, more easily fits with there being no casualties than some other suggestions.

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Javier May 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

Don’t know much about helos except for the ones in Call of Duty, but I saw Brian Williams on Letterman last night. He said the chopper was a Pave Low. Sound right to you guys?

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Richard May 3, 2011 at 9:31 am

No, the article said Army Black Hawk MH-60. The Pave Hawks are USAF HH-60G. Same body frame but one is air refuelable.

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Guest May 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I can tell you that it was the MH-60K Sikorsky Blackhawk for NightStalkers (SOAR) 160th! And the MH-47E Boeing Chinook. How do I know – because I worked on the SW for both at IBM/Lockheed Martin.

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mojo58 May 3, 2011 at 10:26 am

Pavelows are retired!

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Bob May 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

Looks a lot like the pilots tried to bring their bird down hard and fast inside those walls but misjudged their positioning, cracking the tail off on the wall just ahead of the end.

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CW3 Wentling January 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

exactly

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YanniT May 3, 2011 at 11:35 am

Yes a 5 bladed TR on a hawk would be a very substantial modification, from a new hub and controls to a new blade design

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Amvet May 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Consider a tail-low steep approach at night with NVG (diminished depth perception and periferal vision) over a barb-wired 14 foot wall. It appears that the tail section hit the wall since it is outside the compound but the fuselage is inside. Nascar driver Davey Allison died due a similar incident at Talladega AL when he made a downwind (tail-low) approach to a confined garage area over a concertina-wired security fence causing the tail rotor to impact the fence. His Hughes 269 came to rest on its side as did the MH-60 Other than that congrats on a job well done under demanding and difficult conditions.

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cyborgmudhen May 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Amvet,
I , too,THINK ( just no way for me to know) this was the result of a high speed decel. Add high deck angle to what you've described and you've got one helluva approach to live through.

YanniT,
Not sure where you got these pics from, but if true they definitely are proof a a Blackhawk quite a bit different than the ones I've flown….or have even SEEN.
Thanks.

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Blain2 May 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

All of those speculating on this as if this was some "hidden from Pakistanis" sort of episode are mistaken. Some simple facts are as such that had the Pakistanis wanted to stop this operation (not that they wanted to), they have enough capability to saturate the airspace in and around the region with upwards of 250-300 fighter aircraft in a very short amount of time (I have seen this during the last Indian-Pak flare up). While the USAF and USN/USMC assets can handle this threat, the conduct of a unilateral 60 minute plus operation would have become impossible in these circumstances.

The simple explanation is the correct one which is that this was a joint operation. There was no choice but to give the Paks the ability to plausibly deny their participation for fear of blowback from TTP extremists within the country.

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Steve B. May 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm

"Some simple facts are as such that had the Pakistanis wanted to stop this operation (not that they wanted to), they have enough capability to saturate the airspace in and around the region with upwards of 250-300 fighter aircraft in a very short amount of time"

You're kidding, right ?. The Paki's may own 200-300 fighters, but they might have 100 operational at any given time. It's also doubtful they could get 50 in the air in a bolt-out-of-the-blue scramble. The AD systems also tend to spend all their time looking east towards India and I'd doubt they have any robust AD systems looking to the west and why should they ?, the Afghani's don't have much of an air force last I checked. Factor in the month's of preparation for the mission and it's a certainty the US went in thru a lot of holes in the air defense net as well as having some toy's to keep the Paki's from getting a sniff.

SB

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Tugboat May 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm

AMVET,
I agree with you. I am currently in the Army and I am a Blackhawk crewchief. Under NVG's your depth perception is at a minimum. I can see how a 30 degree nose up situation over a 14' wall can be the cause to take this aircraft down. But from the looks of the tail section wreckage… It might be the angle of photo but the Horizontal Stab looks a bit small to be a UH MH 60. I would like to see a photo of the front half of the A/C

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guest May 3, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I can tell you that it was the MH-60K Sikorsky Blackhawk for NightStalkers (SOAR) 160th! And the MH-47E Boeing Chinook. How do I know – because I worked on the SW for both at IBM/Lockheed Martin.

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DeUglyOne May 3, 2011 at 6:37 pm

AMVET.. +1
Tugboat.. Only 30 degrees? I've watched medivac birds come in hot and tail stand at more like 60 degrees. Makes my buddies and me cringe everytime, but they pull it off constantly.
I know the 160th pilots have many times the skill of the Q pilots and do things with these birds that would make Sikorsky engineers faint.
It could also have been a tail stand due to another pilot's short landing. If so, this pilot probably prevented killing everyone in both birds by taking the wall instead.
Either way, my hat's off to everyone involved.

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NSDQ October 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

No, you haven't. It may have looked like >30 degrees, but if it was, it wasn't by much. VERY, VERY aggressive approaches may result in a 30 degree nose up attitude, but only for a second or two. The increase in torque required to avoid dropping like a homesick brick is exponential, as the thrust vector is pushed forward. This arrests the approach rate, but substantially increases the required power to maintain vertical lift. At 60 degrees, the power increase is 100%, meaning that an approach requiring 80% torque, at 60 degrees, now requires 160%. Unless they're landing into a hurricane headwind (and they're not), they weren't anywhere close to 60 degrees.

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cartman2394 May 3, 2011 at 9:12 pm

No one has really brought it up, but the blackhawk is a low tail helcopter, that wall is too high for them to have landed with it hanging over. the tail would have had to hit the wall and broke off for it to be in that position and not burned at all. secondly if that is the back side of the upside down tail of a blackhawk it is missing the V shaped cut out that the horizontal stabilizer sits in.

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S. Holmes May 4, 2011 at 9:26 pm

These photos might help. I think the horizontal stabilizers are much smaller than normal on this helo.
http://www.reuters.com/subjects/bin-laden-compoun

Follow the links to see photos from inside compound also clearly showing scorched wall.

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bill May 4, 2011 at 1:46 am

is it a packastani helicopter?

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jjf315 May 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

I am absolutely sick of the dumb questions that's being asked; i.e. Who flew the helicopters? What kind of bullets were used? Did Bin Laden put up a fight? Why was this mission so secret? Please!! If you really want to know, join the Military!! You don't have a need to know. Just know that we in the military (past & present) are/have done the best job we can to keep our way of life comfortable. And yet all you nay sayers still questions the very method we use to uphold this. it high time that you curious nobodies find something to do with your idle time like go look for gophers, or listen to the grass grow. Better yet, go start a Unicorn & Pegasus ranch!!

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Tom May 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Doesnt appear to be Blackhawk, if I'm looking at it right the horizonal stabilator is above and forward of the transition from vertical stabilator and tail boom transition.

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Sid May 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

There is NO WAY the Pakistanis were in on this op. This raid was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering, and the objective could not have been more high-consequence. The US would not risk the real possibility of a high level Pakistani mole warning OBL and blowing American cover. This op was as black as it gets.

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A. Khan May 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Yup, thats what the govt. would have you believe. Plausible deniability is what this is.

Here is some food for thought :

1. Why was Pakistani Army chief in his office that night when they usually leave at 2pm ?

2. How did the Pakistani Army commandos show up immediately after to take control of site ? Its a job for police. Commando units don't just hang around even near a military academy.

3. Why were Pakistani politicians meeting in the middle of the night ? Were they discussing the menu for next days meeting ?

Everyone knew something was going down. Were the air defences stood down ? Maybe not required but doesn't hurt to have them turned off or to ignore any blips for a couple of hours.

Green signal then claim ignorance to assuage public anger at foreign intervention. But to me, US intervention in Pakistan is not really "foreign" for Pakistan as US has pumped in enough money to buy it several times over. Its a pity that money ends up with corrupt politicians and military rather than the people.

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anon May 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

Surprised that the op didn't just use the CIA safehouse in the city as the base of a snatch and grab. Destroy compound, sneak stuff out to the CIA safehouse, versus stealth helicopter assault.

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Not a Genius May 4, 2011 at 9:29 pm

The aircraft involved has a forward swept synchronized elevator. That alone very clearly marks it as NOT any of the aforementioned aircraft. Misinformation? Stupidity? It's definitely stealth – you can easily tell from the sharp angles. You can also tell from the "hub cap" on the rotor that it's designed to be quiet (reduce buffeting).

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Aircraft Watcher May 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Another photo at http://a57.foxnews.com/static/managed/img/World/6… and http://a57.foxnews.com/static/managed/img/World/6…. Altho seem images are reversed in one set or the other. 5 blade tail rotor with covers, fwd swept elevator mounted below on top of fuse/tail junction. Any idea what this is???

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Steve May 5, 2011 at 10:54 am

MH-53M IV are retired, but so are OH-6 (little birds) which spec ops currently use.
Just because it (MH53) is retired does not mean they are out of the inventory.This is not a MH60 or variant it is to large. Probably a modded MH53
(retired military helicopter pilot)

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Hope This Helps May 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Skunkworks (designed all US stealth aircraft) said in an interview with a show on Discovery Channel that they have been designing a new stealth capable helicopter for the US army for at over a year now (that was at least 6 months ago I saw this).

They even said the radar profile wouldn't be any bigger than a large bird.
They also said it has deployable "wings" which deploy the weapons and that they fold in for a low radar profile.

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anon May 9, 2011 at 8:55 am

That sounds insane enough that it would justify utterly obliterating the evidence.

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Joe Schmoe May 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

You mean the Comanche?

Canceled.

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SoilsEngineer May 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

This was no planned operation to ditch a helicopter into that walled compound. Period.

Anyone who believes the US would willingly and deliberately expose a technology edge to donate to Pakistan and China is a little behind the curve. Also, this was no "low and fast pilot error". These pilots had plenty of before-hand knowledge of the strike and have certainly practiced this approach and landing option.

There is no sane way that US tacticians would plan end execute this outcome. This was not "the pilot misjudged a little and hit the wall" it was the best he could do with a big problem. More than most likely this is what you call "lead in the engine" the engines and drivetrain are the weaknesses in these machines.

This is either the result of "lead in the engine" or a known helicopter peculiarity called "hot and high" which is exacerbated in ground-effect over obstructions and flowbreaks like walls. These are clearly the the only reasonable potential causes for the outcome here.

Also, one of the most revealing aspects I'm not sure anyone has noticed came from the photos of the wreckage IN the yard on the other side of the wall. Study of the rotorhead wreckage and the yokes in the visible taildrive train shows it's clearly a blackhawk or derivative but there are some other very interesting and telling clues in even just these few pictures!

Also notable are some of the things that are "missing"! Note the station cross-sections at the 'break' and compare with known examples of Blackhawk prototypes or fitted with "hush-Kits".

Also, there is a question of that helicopter being operated by a DoD element OTHER than the US navy. But what do I know? Heh.

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CW3 Wentling January 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Hot and high, evidently your not a rw pilot or you would know it is called loss of lift due to a vortex ring state. Which it was not due the conditions required for this acft. It was pilot error, 160th is well known for being cowboys. h

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Retired Helomech May 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I doubt it's a UH-60 variant. The T/R is mounted on the left. All H-60's i have ever seen have the T/R mounted on the right side.

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NSDQ October 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

You must have been a lousy mechanic, bub. That T/R is mounted on the right side. Look at the relative positioning of the stabilator.

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solo1 July 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

i've heard it was a 160 th soar stealth mh 60 and that the pilot was attemptimg a hard landing and that might have contributed to loss of lift so the sucker dropped like a rock

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Zed August 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

The aircraft that crashed in the raid was a Comanche, not a Hawk!

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CW3 Wentling January 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Zed August 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm

The aircraft is a Comanche, not a Hawk.

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I'mjustSaying August 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Jay, are you becoming a conspiracy theorist? Like those 9/11'ers?????

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Rob September 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Let's not lose sight of the main issue – the brave men achieved their mission and the world is a safer place

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CW3 Wentling January 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Vortex ring state caused the crash, bs. He came in heavy and fast and hit the wall. Not the first time this has happened. But cover it up and blame it on mechanical problem, bs. Retired rw pilot.

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senior April 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

To prevent other countries like China from copying (knowing) the technical specs of the helicopter or drone, technicians should cover the computer chips with epoxy. This will prevent them from knowing the part number. easily.

The covered part should also be tested if it could over heat the area causing a crash.

You could also use a small grinder to erase the part number of the chips.

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D Ross January 29, 2013 at 7:07 am

The claim may be correct, but military aviation pilots (especially rotor-craft) are probably the best trained in the world. These pilots trained extensively at mock ups at US bases perfecting the insertion of two Seal Teams.
The claim that they were felled wind vortex or pressure altitude in an enclosed area is absolute silliness. Rotor craft pilots are fully aware of obstacles, terrain, and how weather effects the flight envelope.
This controlled crash was either equipment failure, or ground fire – not altitude, wind vortex, or pilot error. To accept otherwise is foolishness.

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dfd April 29, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Did they really use pilots that were veterns from the vietnam war

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joe May 3, 2011 at 3:05 am

The real problem is that, where you have a very complex local surface, the transition between an IGE and OGE region is also complex, leading to the lift generated by the blades varying with time or (even worse) with position through their rotation.

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@Earlydawn May 3, 2011 at 9:53 am

Ah, excellent. Thanks.

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ServingGreenTea May 3, 2011 at 11:31 am

Finally something useful. This one seems very exotic. Maybe it’s old hat for some, but I don’t recall ever seeing pictures with such a fairing on the tail rotor, even on the Battlestar Galactica MH-60s (on the internet) with pylons or on any spec ops helos. Maybe for noise suppression? Prevent FOD or getting tangled with branches/power lines? Anybody care to comment?

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