Britain’s The Daily Mail newspaper may have unwittingly revealed a very, very significant clue as to how those MH-60s managed to penetrate Pakistani airspace during sunday’s mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The answer; the weren’t MH-60s, at least not regular MH-60s. The pictures above and below show what’s alledgedly the wreckage of that U.S. chopper that crashed in Osama’s compound due to mechanical problems. It sure doesn’t look like any variant of the Black Hawk that I’ve seen. Maybe it’s a new stealth version of the bird or maybe it’s an entirely new class of chopper. It could be both stealthy and fast enough to evade Pakistani air defenses that were apparently scrambled during the operation. (See our earlier post on how the RQ-170 Beast of Kandahar may have helped jam Pakistani air defense networks.) This also begs the question, who flies it? Does it belong to the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment? Is it a secret Air Force Special Operations Command bird? Heck, maybe it’s a CIA chopper.
Yesterday, I posted the photo below of the tail section of the craft draped over a wall in Bin Laden’s compound. While it looked pretty much like a Black Hawk tail, I couldn’t for the life of me, figure out what the weird, flat piece of wreckage emerging from the tarp was. I just assumed that the airframe had been mangled badly enough that it looked weird. It could very well be some sort of shield designed to reduce the heat, noise or radar signature of the tail rotor. (The noise reduction efforts didn’t work all that well.) The possibility of a stealthy chopper being used in the raid explains why the Pakistani troops where in such a hurry to cover up all of the wreckage with blankets and cart if off so quickly. Who knows if this is the Pakistani cooperation White House officials said they received for the mission or if the PAF just scored a major tech boost. Good on Steve Trimble for spotting it and pointing out that now is the time to start speculating wildly about what type of bird this is.
Update: The Daily Mail has some additional photos of the wreckage here. The WSJ has these images. These shots appear to show that the SEALs and other American special operators were largely successful in destroying the fuselage of the chopper before Pakistani troops could secure the site. It looks like the tail section remained intact due to the fact that it was hanging over the compound wall, separated from the rest of the wreck. Oh, and check out these satellite images of the crash site. Here’s the latest image of the bird’s tail, it gives you a great sense of the overall tail assembly.