Belmont Club

"Airwolf"

Wired has a compilation of the open source analysis on the helicopter which was blown up in the course of the Bin Laden raid. The article, focuses on two subjects. First, whether the aircraft is an example of a hitherto unknown black program; and second, its characteristics.

The May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, had it all: painstaking intelligence-gathering, a heroic Navy SEAL assault team, satellite and drone surveillance, and biometric forensics.

And now this: a possible super-secret, stealthy helicopter, unknown to the wider world before one crashed during the assault.

One source says it is a specially modified Blackhawk, “modified by Lockheed Martin”. An Army Times article reports “it really didn’t look like a traditional Black Hawk,” he said. It had “hard edges, sort of like an … F-117, you know how they have those distinctive edges and angles — that’s what they had on this one.”

The special operations troops on the bin Laden mission destroyed the stricken aircraft — most likely using thermite grenades — but the resultant fire left the helicopter’s tail boom, tail rotor assembly and horizontal stabilizers intact in the compound’s courtyard.

Photographs of the wreckage taken the next day raced around the Internet, creating a firestorm of speculation among military aviation enthusiasts because the tail of the helicopter did not resemble any officially acknowledged U.S. military airframe.

The use of a low-observable helicopter — and the fallout from its loss — makes it less likely that the raid was secretly conducted in cooperation with the Pakistanis. The planners truly wanted to conceal the approach of the aircraft from the Pakistani government. Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week wrote “The willingness to compromise this technology shows the importance of the mission in the eyes of US commanders — and what we’re seeing here also explains why Pakistani defenses didn’t see the first wave (at least) coming in.” The Army Times article added, “the use of the low-observable Black Hawks was evidence that the United States gave Pakistani authorities no advance warning of the mission”.

The undetected approach of the helicopters is already raising questions in Pakistan about the security of their nuclear stockpile — not from al-Qaeda — but from the United States. The New York Times says the Pakistani Army is now being criticized for not being able to prevent an incursion into a military town.

One of the military’s biggest advocates, Kamran Khan, a journalist whose nightly television show garners big audiences, led the chorus: “We had the belief that our defense was impenetrable, but look what has happened. Such a massive intrusion and it went undetected.”

Mr. Khan posed the question on many Pakistani minds: “What is the guarantee that our strategic assets and security installations are safe?”

In some Pakistani quarters, the failure of the army and intelligence agencies to detect Bin Laden, or to do anything about him if indeed his presence was known, prompted calls for an overhaul of the nation’s strategic policies. …

The editor, Arif Nizami, said the American raid made a mockery of the Pakistani military’s bravura that its fighter jets could shoot down American drones. “You talk of taking out drones, and you can’t even take out helicopters,” Mr. Nizami said.

It has clearly unnerved the Pakistani establishment. At least they have the fragments which they will doubtless use, in conjunction with whatever country wishes to assist them, to understand the threat. The loss of the helicopter is a little bit like finding a fragment of the cloaking devices favored by aliens in sci-fi movies. It’s a comforting artifact. Proof that whatever it was that arrived and left didn’t wholly come from the other side.

King Willie: They say you want to talk to me. They say you offering me favors. Tell me why, Babylon. Mr Policeman?

Hartigan: I want some information. Information.

King Willie: I don’t know who he is. But I know where he is. The spirit world, man. You see, it’s always the same. There’s no stopping what can’t be stopped. No killing what can’t be killed. This thing that’s killing your people and mine is from the other side. … You can’t see the eyes of the demon until him come calling. This is dread, man. Truly dread.

"This is dread, man. Truly dread."


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