Lahore: The United States’ secret stealth-modified helicopters, which intruded into Pakistani territory and conducted nearly an hour-long operation to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, were most probably refuelled after having landed on Pakistani soil.
The Saudi-born terrorist, who had evaded capture for a decade, was killed on May 02 in a top secret operation involving a small team of US Special Forces in Abbottabad, located 50 kilometres northeast of Islamabad and 150 kilometres east of Peshawar.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) investigative commission formed on the orders of Air Chief Rao Qamar Suleman is in the final stages of compiling its report of the investigation of the Abbottabad incident, The Nation quoted sources, as saying.
The report will contain information gathered as a result of the in-house investigation, which has revealed that all PAF radar systems and technical monitoring assets were fully functional on May 02, and that no lapses of vigilance occurred that night on part of the PAF.
The report states that the US choppers employed in the raid used the latest stealth technology, which made them undetectable by radars.
Besides the use of stealth machines, the Americans also went unobserved because of the hilly passages they chose as their route to Abbottabad. Traversing deliberately through the mountainous terrain, the distance travelled by the US stealth helicopters from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abbottabad was almost 250 km, instead of the usual 195 km on a standard flight path, says the report.
As the engines of these helicopters were intended to remain running even while the US Navy SEALs carried out their operation on bin Laden’s compound, it was necessary for them to refuel the choppers at least once, other than the fact that stealth technology helicopters are not capable of flying long distances without refuelling, the paper said.
Although able to refuel mid-flight, the helicopters carrying SEAL Team 6 were most probably refuelled after having landed on Pakistani soil, due to the difficulty of refuelling in the air in the mountainous territory they chose to travel through, the paper added.
The US helicopters used for the raid also possessed rotor blades of a unique and never-before-seen design, which ensured that the noise emitted from their rotation was minimal, ensuring that they drew as little unwanted attention as possible.
The report details the sequence of events on the night of the incident, starting with a call from Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who informed the Air Chief about the Abbottabad incident over the phone at seven minutes past two in the morning (2:07 am).
At twenty-five minutes past two (2:25 am), that is 18 minutes later, the PAF jets were present over Abbottabad, but the American operation had been completed by then.