By now we know that the two helicopters that deposited the 23 U.S. operatives (and their dog) into Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2 were no standard-issue Army rotorcraft. Rather, they were stealth modifications of the MH-60 Blackhawk, optimized to reduce their noise, infrared and radar signatures.
But there’s a growing belief that other stealthy choppers might have been present, as well. It’s the latest in a series of revelations regarding the sophisticated tactics and techs behind the high-stakes raid.
We know about the pair of radar-evading Blackhawks because one of the elusive birds — dubbed “Silenthawks” by the media — crashed inside the bin Laden compound, leaving behind an intact tail rotor that photographers documented the following morning, and which aviation geeks used to infer the aircraft’s overall configuration.
That crash, plus the dicey politics surrounding the CIA-led assault, offer up circumstantial evidence of an even more secretive “silent” helicopter: a possible variant of the twin-rotor MH-47 Chinook, sporting the same stealth treatments as the Silenthawk and operated by the same 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.