US used top secret choppers for Osama raid

The Navy SEALs team used never-seen-before stealth choppers to swoop down on Osama.

Last Updated: May 05, 2011, 18:32 PM IST

Washington: US elite Navy SEALs team used
top secret, never-before-seen stealth helicopters to swoop
down on an unsuspecting al Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden in his
Abbottabad safe haven and shoot him dead.

One of the secret choppers was disabled during the
raid by the SEALs, blowing it up in an apparent bid to ensure
that the frontline technology did not fall into non-US hands,
US media reports said.

The secret choppers have been kept under wraps by
Pentagon and their use for the key mission suggests that the
American military planners did not want to take any chances in
the high-risk raid.

Pentagon officials are still keeping mum on whether or
not stealth choppers were used, but ABC News citing American
aviators said that photos of what survived the explosion has
sent military analysts buzzing about a stealth helicopter
programme that was only rumoured to exist.

Former defence officials say the modified variant of
the Sikrosky H-60 Blackhawk features extra blades on the tail
rotor allowing it to fly significantly less noisily and also
has low observable technology similar to that of F-117 stealth
fighter to enable it to evade Pakistan air force detection
radars.

The US did not warn Pakistan about the raid for fear
of leaks, but the helicopters nonetheless managed to fly to
the compound from their base in Afghanistan without Pakistan
military seemingly being alerted.

The choppers appear to have a modified tail boom to a
noise reducing covering on the rear rotors and a special
high-tech material similar to that used in stealth fighters.

Top former Pentagon officials say the bird is like
nothing they have seen before.

"This is a first," they said. "You wouldn`t know that
it was coming right at you. And that`s what`s important,
because these are coming in fast and low, and if they aren`t
sounding like they`re coming right at you, you might not even
react until it`s too late... That was clearly part of the
success."
In addition to the noise-reducing modifications, a
former special operations aviator told The Army Times the
general shape of what was left of the craft -- the harsh
angles and flat surfaces more common to stealth jets -- was
further evidence it was a modified variant of the Blackhawk.

Neighbours of bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, told
ABC News they didn`t hear the helicopters during the raid
until they were directly overhead. The rotor covering, along
with a special rotor design, suppressed the choppers noise.

The US has attempted to use stealth helicopters
before. In the mid-90s, the Army developed several prototypes
of the Comanche helicopter, a reconnaissance helicopter that
was at the time a revolutionary step in stealth technology.

But in 2004 the Department of Defense scrapped the programme
and promised to used technology developed for the Comanche on
other crafts.

Since, the government has been working to silence the
Army`s Blackhawk helicopters but an official programme for the
stealth choppers was never publicized. The wreckage, officials
said, is the first the public has ever seen of an operational
stealth-modified helicopter.

They believe that the stealthy Blackhawks have been in
use for years without the public`s knowledge.

"We probably have been running hundreds of missions
with these helicopters over the last half dozen years, and the
fact is, they`ve all been successful -- or at least the
helicopters have all come back," they said.

But now that one went down and photographs emerged of
large sections being taken from the crash site under a tarp,
former White House counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke
said US officials may have reason to worry about where those
parts end up.

"There are probably people in the Pentagon tonight who
are very concerned that pieces of the helicopter may be, even
now, on their way to China, because we know that China is
trying to make stealth aircraft," he said.

The Chinese military is known to have a close
relationship with the Pakistani military.

PTI