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RQ-170 Stealth Drone Used in Bin Laden Raid

by John Reed on May 18, 2011

And here we go, U.S. intelligence officials are starting to acknowledge that the stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone was indeed used to provide ISR support for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad this month.

We’ve long figured that the “Beast of Kandahar” had to have been the UAV that Pentagon officials said supported the Navy SEALs and other commandos who carried out the raid using stealth helicopters to avoid Pakistani air defenses. It only makes sense that if the raid was sensitive enough to use at least two stealth choppers to ferry in the initial assault team of 24 SEALs (and a dog named Cairo), the other aircraft involved would have to be low-observable, also.

The Sentinel did several key variety of tasks during the raid such as providing real-time imagery of the compound to the President and other authorities in DC to monitoring Pakistani military communications, all while orbiting overhead undetected, according to the Washington Post.

It could also have jammed Pakistani radars and beamed its footage of the compound to the SEALs in their inbound choppers

The Post is quotes several “current and former” intelligence officials as acknowledging that the CIA used the Air Force’s RQ-170 in Pakistan for months to monitor bin Laden’s house which lies within Pakistan’s air defense intercept zone that surrounds the capitol city of Islamabad.

Using unmanned planes designed to evade radar detection and operate at high altitudes, the agency conducted clandestine flights over the compound for months before the May 2 assault in an effort to capture high-resolution video that satellites could not provide.

The aircraft allowed the CIA to glide undetected beyond the boundaries that Pakistan has long imposed on other U.S. drones, including the Predators and Reapers that routinely carry out strikes against militants near the border with Afghanistan.

All this paints a picture of a raid that was indeed carried out without Pakistani knowledge (or, to give Islamabad plausible deniability with regard to the raid, for you skeptics). The remaining question is; were there really only two stealth helos used in the operation? Why use a stealth drone and two stealth helicopters and then send in two-to-three MH-47s that can be detected by radar deep into Pakistan to retrieve the SEALs and collect evidence? How did they do that without being detected?

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