One of the helicopters that delivered SEAL Team Six to the bin Laden compound went down during the mission. As with many other aspects of Operation Geronimo, there have been conflicting stories about what happened to the chopper. The initial report simply called it “mechanical failure.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, later told Reuters she had been informed “the temperature was 17 degrees higher than anticipated, and based on the temperature, and the load in the helicopter, the helicopter began to descend, and so it was a kind of controlled but hard landing.”
Not to get all conspiratorial here, but that seems like a rather weird explanation. Is it that hard to find out the exact current temperature in Abbotabad at any hour of the day? You can get the current temperature for nearby Islamabad from Weather.com. It’s almost certainly not 17 degrees different sixty miles away. Or was Osama bin Laden’s compound somehow generating 17 degrees of ambient heat, over a large enough area to bring down a combat helicopter? That would be a hell of a barbecue.
I’ve heard some rumors that the helicopter might have caught a piece of the compound wall or barbed-wire topping on approach, which sounds more believable. Is the real cause being concealed because the Administration or Pentagon is worried it will make the team look bad somehow? If so, I have a news flash for them: nothing can make the men who executed this mission look bad to us.
At any rate, the SEALs had to quickly demolish the downed Blackhawk to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Some photos of the surviving tail rotor section have leaked out, and it would seem the early description of “modified Blackhawk” actually means “awesome futuristic stealth chariot of justice.” Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week describes it as follows:
“It was a secretly developed stealth helicopter, probably a highly modified version of an H-60 Blackhawk. Photos published in the Daily Mail and on the Secret Projects board show that the helicopter’s tail features stealth-configured shapes on the boom and tip fairings, swept stabilizers and a “dishpan” cover over a non-standard five-or-six-blade tail rotor. It has a silver-loaded infra-red suppression finish similar to that seen on some V-22s.”
The tail section, incidentally, appears to be resting outside the wall of bin Laden’s compound, which might add some credence to the theory that the helicopter went down because it made contact with the 18-foot wall on approach.
Sweetman points out that noise can be reduced by “aerodynamic modifications and flight control changes that make it possible to slow the rotor down, particularly in forward flight below maximum speed.” So not only did this baby slip through roughly two hundred miles of Pakistani airspace undetected – including the dense radar coverage over Pakistan’s capital city and major military command centers – it’s also very quiet.
These helicopters have been extremely classified until now. It might not even be fair to call it a “modified UH-60 Blackhawk” – it could be an entirely new design. It was definitely amazing, and now the bad guys of the world know it exists. Nothing but the best was good enough to escort Osama bin Laden on the first stage of his journey to the bottom of the Arabian Sea, and Hell.