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Pieces of the crashed chopper used in the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden feature a sophisticated stealth design.  (Source: Reuters via Newscom)

The choppers used reportedly were radar-avoiding modified Black Hawk MH-60 (pictured) helicopters designed by Lockheed Martin and manufactured by Boeing Comp.  (Source: Naval Technology)

Osama bin Laden was almost tipped off thanks to a release of information by Wikileaks just days before the attack.  (Source: The Times)

Osama bin Laden broke with his own procedure and stored hard drives around his house -- as a result, U.S. intelligence now has a wealth of info on Al Qaeda.  (Source: The Long War Journal)
Wikileaks published just days before that the U.S. was on to bin Laden's location, nearly tipped him off

For a decade after his terrible 9/11 attacks, which left over 3,000 Americans dead, Osama bin Laden avoided American authorities, often narrowly escaping bombings and raids by a window of hours.  But on Sunday May 1, 2011 in a raid authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Navy Seals shot and killed bin Laden inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

I. Stealth Choppers -- Key to the Strike?

According to numerous sources, including a report in the online magazine Army Times, one of the keys to the raid were modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters designed for stealth.

The helicopters were still relatively noisy, but they were virtually invisible to radar.  That was thanks to low observable modifications that added "several hundred pounds" of weight to the helicopters.  A UH-60 -- one of the most commonly used Black Hawk helicopters -- weighs about 10,624 lb. when empty.  A MH-60 can weigh between 11,124 and 11,624 lb.  And with the modifications, the empty chopper would be tipping the scales at 11,524 to 12,024 lb.

The modified helicopter bears little resemblance to a traditional Black Hawk, according to those who've seen them -- they have distinct lines.  And most notably their windshield has been painted with a special coating that reduces the radar cross-section.  That coating also presents a danger as it can interfere with the night-vision goggles pilots typically use to navigate at night.

II. History of the Stealth MH-60

The "low-observable" program, which reportedly birthed the unique chopper, had its roots in the stealthy AH-6 Little Bird choppers employed by U.S. Special Forces in the 1980s.  

In the 1990s, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), working with Lockheed-Martin Corp.'s (LMT) Skunk Works division, looked to revamp the design.  Skunk Works, which had been responsible for the F-117 stealth ground attack aircraft, applied its stealth experience to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s MH-60s.  

The work was continued in the "1999 to 2000 timeframe" by the Boeing Company (BA), which was financed by USSOCOM to modify several MH-60s to the Lockheed's stealth design.  The plan was to station the new choppers at a base in Nevada under the command of a lieutenant colonel.  The plan was to assign 35 to 50 USSOCOM warriors to the unit.

Describes a source in the Army Times report, "The intent was always to move it out west where it could be kept in a covered capability. There were going to be four [low-observable] aircraft, they were going to have a couple of 'slick' unmodified Black Hawks, and that was going to be their job was to fly the low-observables."

"[W]ithin the last two years", those plans were cancelled, but not before a few of the stealth copters had been delivered.  Reportedly, the U.S. Military would rotate traditional MH-60 Black Hawk crews -- members of the 160th’s 1st Battalion, headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky. -- to the Nevada base to train on stealth Black Hawks.  In short, the project was scaled back, but remained partially executed.

III. Launching the Mission

When President Obama gave the order to execute the strike, he may have launched the first major battlefield test of the new chopper design (though it is possible they were used in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts).

One mystery is how the helicopters were able to reach the target and return.  The stealth choppers reportedly lacked air-to-air refueling probes, which would disrupt the radar cross-section.  The maximum ferry range of the choppers was 1,318 miles.  So if they were launched at sea, they would have been unable to return, as the target was ~700 miles inland.  

More likely, the helicopters may have landed somewhere in Afghanistan, though the launch location is still ambiguous.  Also possible is that the helicopters could have been fitted with extended range tanks to complete the trip from sea and back.

According to cables aired by Wikileaks in recent months, it was clear that the U.S. believed senior military and government leadership in Pakistan were consorting with Al Qaeda, bin Laden's terrorist organization.  The operation thus was, according to some sources, carried out without informing Pakistan for fear that bin Laden would be tipped off and escape.

Speaking of Wikileaks, the whistleblowing-cum-espionage organization almost tipped off bin Laden that the U.S. authorities were onto his whereabouts, if only he had read their most recent publication.

Recently leaked profiles of Guantánamo Bay detainees identify the U.S. as recently suspecting that senior-level Al Qaeda were residing in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

According to a Pakistani news report one document reads:

In October 2002, Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi, aka (Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi), contacted and asked detainee (Libi) to work with him in Peshawar. Detainee accepted the offer and spent the next five to six months working under Al-Baqi organizing the purchase of supplies for fighters including medicine, lights, batteries, food, and clothing. In July 2003, detainee received a letter from Osama bin Laden’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee to take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan. Bin Laden stated detainee would be the official messenger between him and others in Pakistan.

In mid-2003, detainee moved his family to Abbottabad and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.  Between August 2003 and February 2004, detainee travelled to Shkai, Pakistan on three occasions. While at Shkai, detainee met with al-Qaeda’s Sharia Council, delivered funds to fighters and met with Hamza Rabia.

In mid 2004, detainee moved his family from Abbottabad to Bajaur. During October 2004, detainee received a letter from Bin Laden asking about the financial situations in Pakistan and Waziristan. In addition to the letter, there was a video tape of Bin Laden speeches.

If bin Laden had known that U.S. authorities were on to his secret hiding spot, he could have vacated the area.

Fortunately for the lives of Arab nationals and Americans, the hint Wikileaks dropped fell on deaf ears and bin Laden appeared oblivious to the impending strike.

IV. The Strike -- A Crash, but Mission Success

Early Monday morning, under the black of night, chaos erupted.  The helicopters successfully dumped a large team of Navy Seal special operatives, undetected by radar.  But even as the firefight in the compound ensued, one of the helicopters crashed to the ground.

It is thought that the crash may have been due to an unusual phenomenon called "settling with power", which occurs when a helicopter descends more rapidly than intended due to the rotors failing to produce sufficient lift to counter their turbulent downwash.

That might have been the "price" for the great stealth-avoidance characteristics of the chopper.  It is thought that the extra weight of the stealth modifications, combined with the full load of the combat team, likely combined to force the chopper down.

Fortunately no personnel were seriously injured, and the Special Forces operatives were able to destroy the body of the helicopter with thermite grenades.  But the explosion did not destroy all of the craft -- the helicopter’s tail boom, tail rotor assembly and horizontal stabilizers were left intact and unrecovered in a courtyard at the compound.

Pictures of those parts revealed the blocky radar-avoiding design and what might be the true story of the raid, if you believe retired U.S. Military staff.

V. More Questions Raised

The assassination raised many fascinating questions for the U.S. media, academic community, intelligence agencies, military, and government.  

For example, bin Laden was widely thought to be hiding in caves in the Hindu Kush Mountains between Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.  Instead, bin Laden appears to have been hiding in the swank residential compound since 2005.

Another mistaken belief was that bin Laden was suffering from kidney failure and required dialysis.  A search of the house revealed no dialysis equipment or medications, other than some eye drops and Vaseline.  

Bin Laden was also thought to be heavily armed, but was initially spotted unarmed, according to sources, though some claim he picked up a weapon after using one of his wives as a human shield.

And he made a mistake that may dearly cost Al Qaeda -- reportedly he left hard drives with a wealth of documents lying around the house, in direct violation with his own Al Qaeda code of operations he authored.  Those hard drives may provide U.S. operatives the clues they need to ferret out the remaining vestiges of Al Qaeda in the Middle East and Africa.

While there are many new questions, some fascinating dialogues from a tech perspective, and an abundance of theories, perhaps the most interesting is the tale of the stealth choppers and their role in the attack. If true, the operation stands as a great vindication of the U.S. stealth air initiative -- often chastised for its "over-spending".

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To many questions
By just4U on 5/5/2011 11:18:18 AM , Rating: -1
The stealth stuff is cool and all that but that whole mission leaves to many unanswered questions. Why kill him? He's worth more alive. If they did kill him why bury him at sea? For the families who died this would seem to be very unsatisfactory closure. You know? I don't get it and I don't think the American Government is giving proper facts behind it all.

RE: To many questions
By putergeek00 on 5/5/2011 11:48:44 AM , Rating: 5
Why kill him?

Because taking him alive probably wasn't going to happen whether we killed him or he killed himself, quite possibly taking out our troops in the process.

Why bury him at sea?

Why give his allies a Shrine to mourn over. We have just taken out their leader and given them nothing for closure. I actually think it was an ingenious move.

I am quoting another DT user for this. MozeeToby put it best:
"Islam states that a body should be buried within 24 hours, bin Laden's body was disposed of strictly according to Muslim traditions to deny any talking points for his allies. No one can say we mistreated his body."

I understand that the families might want more for closure, but we can't exactly use his body for closure(or until we're done with it) and then throw it away. Do unto others what you want done to yourself. We are trying to set the bar so that we are not completely evil.

RE: To many questions
By The Raven on 5/5/2011 12:38:18 PM , Rating: 2
Why give his allies a Shrine to mourn over. We have just taken out their leader and given them nothing for closure. I actually think it was an ingenious move.

I am definitely NOT with the conspiracy theorists out there, but I don't get this one. Why can't they just turn the body over to a relative and have them handle the burial and what not the next day? And so what if there is a shrine/grave for OBL...What better way of finding out who sympathizes with his whackadoo mind?

RE: To many questions
By torpor on 5/5/2011 2:05:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. This.

Give him a grave near Twentynine Palms and we can train Marine snipers on it.

You'd fix a lot of problems.

RE: To many questions
By corduroygt on 5/5/2011 1:53:55 PM , Rating: 2
I think that since killing yourself guarantees going to hell in Islam, he committed "suicide by Navy SEAL". He made that move knowing that he had no chance but he wasn't going to kill himself and he surely didn't want to be captured.

RE: To many questions
By icanhascpu on 5/8/2011 10:42:19 AM , Rating: 2
Why give his allies a Shrine to mourn over. We have just taken out their leader and given them nothing for

Because we are suppose to be better than them.

RE: To many questions
By voodoochile123 on 5/30/2011 9:40:53 PM , Rating: 2
Uhh says who?

We had people dancing in the streets cheering at his death. We are no better than them at all, we just have better gear.

RE: To many questions
By bah12 on 5/5/2011 11:50:00 AM , Rating: 5
Although I'd agree we don't (and probably shouldn't) know all the details of a classified mission, my tin foil hat is a bit looser.

He could have been shot in a heat of the battle moment. Clearly this did not go to plan. Reports are saying that one chopper was to put a repel team in on the roof, and both teams sweep from from top to bottom. Combat is a HIGHLY dynamic situation, and I don't care how elite your training is. If you crash (albeit it mildly) a chopper on the ground in front of the complex that is holding what you believe to be the most dangerous/hated/wanted man on the planet, sh1t starts to hit the fan and you improvise. I certainly would not have expected to reach the 3rd floor to find him relatively unarmed in his bedroom chilling with the family. Adrenaline is pumping, and the team was expecting WAY more resistance had it gone to plan, let alone if he was tipped off by a big crash. After the crash I'm sure they broke open the door expecting a flurry of bullets. It would only take the slightest aggressive motion toward a weapon at that point to trigger a kill shot.

Point is this was NOT a mission going as planned, despite the outcome. It was clearly botched, and they recovered as well as to be expected. I'm sure it was hectic as hell so to say the "plan" was to kill him is probably short sided

RE: To many questions
By kleinma on 5/5/2011 11:53:47 AM , Rating: 1
What exactly is he worth alive? A huge media circus and months if not years of him living on our tax dollars while they figure out how to bring him to a trial that he will simply be convicted and killed anyway? It would be an insult for him to be allowed to be on American soil (dead or alive). Total waste of time and money to bring someone like that in alive. The right thing was done. Burying him out to sea is so that his body can't be used to create any sort of shrine or memorial to him by his supporters. He was judge and jury (but let his sheep be executioner) against 3000 of us, so I have no problems with him getting a double tap to the face.

As far as the govt goes and the facts, there should be none. They should have come out and said "we killed him, that's all folks". We don't need any more facts than that.

RE: To many questions
By bah12 on 5/5/2011 12:14:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not that I disagree, rather a counter point would be. Intelligence. If a hardened foot soldier will break at Guantanamo, how do you think he'd fair? Think of it this way put one of those SEALS in "intense" interrogation, and he probably won't break easily, put a posh leader that hasn't seen direct action in ages (basically a secretary of state equivalent in our system), my bet is he'd break far easier. TRUST me we'd loved to have a shot at what all he knows, he can always die of "heart failure" later.

Personally I don't think the "plan" was to out right kill him, but as my other post elaborates on, it was a screwed up mission that went haywire, and it just happened.

RE: To many questions
By Iaiken on 5/5/2011 12:44:18 PM , Rating: 3
But what is such intelligence worth?

If he were alive, his allies would stoop levels never before seen in order to have him released.

Imagine if every day he stayed imprisoned, we (and our allies) lost a bus stop full of people, or a kindergarten or hostage situations popped up all over?

These are the sort of political-prisoner-related problems that plagued Israel, Egypt, India, Ireland, and many others in the past. I'm not sure anyone would have wanted that sort of heat and I am glad that he made whatever threating gesture that lead to his being shot.

RE: To many questions
By adiposity on 5/5/2011 1:31:35 PM , Rating: 3
This can be compared to the capturing of Saddam Hussein. The longer he lived and the longer the trial went on, the more sympathy there was for Saddam.

Heck, after listening to the transcripts of the court, even I started feeling a little sorry for Saddam, and I grew up throwing darts at the guy's picture. The whole thing was obviously a kangaroo court, so we probably would have been better of just shooting him in the spider hole and calling it a combat death.

RE: To many questions
By adiposity on 5/5/2011 1:32:15 PM , Rating: 2
err, "off"

RE: To many questions
By corduroygt on 5/5/2011 1:58:21 PM , Rating: 3
How much it would cost and the media circus is irrelevant. We are better than the terrorists and we don't intentionally kill unarmed people who surrender, even if they are enemy combatants. We are a civilized people, unlike terrorists who have no problems killing anyone.

I think either the heat of the action got to the SEAL and he pulled the trigger, or more likely Osama did something deliberately to provoke a shot because he'd rather not be captured alive.

RE: To many questions
By Spuke on 5/5/2011 5:15:14 PM , Rating: 2
We are better than the terrorists and we don't intentionally kill unarmed people who surrender
Where did you hear he surrendered?

RE: To many questions
By corduroygt on 5/5/2011 9:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
I never said he surrendered, that's why he's dead.
My post was in reply to that person who said we should have killed him anyway, which is wrong. If he surrendered, we'd take him alive and give him a trial.

RE: To many questions
By FITCamaro on 5/5/2011 1:52:36 PM , Rating: 1
Why kill him?

Uh....because he's Osama bin Laden? And not a man who's going to allow himself to be taken alive.

If they did kill him why bury him at sea?

Supposedly this was to honor Muslim tradition of burying their dead within 24 hours of death along with the difficulty of finding a country that would take the body. Personally I would have supported a thousand rabid dogs urinating on the corpse and then hanging him by the testicles from the Statue of Liberty for a few weeks to be picked at by vultures. Then cut him down and let the sharks have the rest.

RE: To many questions
By just4U on 5/6/2011 12:44:57 AM , Rating: 2
My questions were not made to instigate a fight guys. I just figured he'd be worth more thru intel alive then dead. Closure for the families of the slain would have been a trial in Gauntonimo.. I don't go much for the tin foil hat stuff either but it doesn't all add up is all.

RE: To many questions
By Azethoth on 5/5/11, Rating: -1
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