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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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RE: Vaseline ?
By The Raven on 5/5/2011 2:58:12 PM , Rating: 3
BTW, substantial parity in gender rights came about in the 20th century.

Yeah, and they were a long time coming!
The whole freedom movement of the revolutionaries in America (beginning back in England with the Magna Chata, etc.) led up to that. I mean you can't say all women are created equal if you can't even say "all men are created equal."

And so I say emphatically that not all men in the middle east are created equal let alone women. But it seems things are at least changing (hopefully for their betterment) in some countries over there.

I'm 'baiting' people into explaining this because this is one thing that Muslims (and especially extremist terrorist Muslims) are known for by many people. It is like Mormons and polygamy. Either give me an explanation or don't comment. I tried to make my self clear that I am not hating on Muslims here or trying to say that Christianity is better. It is a valid question that I expect can be explained, just like the Mormon plural wives thing.

RE: Vaseline ?
By ClownPuncher on 5/5/2011 3:12:31 PM , Rating: 2
I know a few Mormons who abhor polygamy, too. I guess the point is that the individual is ultimately responsible for the individiuals actions.

RE: Vaseline ?
By nstott on 5/5/2011 4:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
Mormon women were never forced into polygamy. Anyone who thinks that doesn't know anything about Mormon women, who were highly independent and "head strong" even back in that day. Women running businesses and practicing law and medicine back in the early Utah Territory before polygamy was ended was far more common than in the eastern US during the same time period.

RE: Vaseline ?
By saadg on 5/6/2011 12:05:57 PM , Rating: 2
Dear "The Raven" san,

I had been hoping some one would reply to your concerns adequately. But it seems that no satisfactory reply has come. You have very nicely addressed your inquiries and I wanted to give an equally decent reply.

To your original inquiry:
We have freedom of religion here in the US. But when your reward in heaven is something so tawdry? How can you have expectations for the men to behave well and treat women fairly?

I suggest some rethinking about how Muslims think about heaven and companions of heaven. I have not met any good Muslims who talks vulgar or uses vulgar terms. So when people think about reward of good female companions, they should not conclude that it has something to do about our manly urges. Maybe there will not be any physical contact such as we have on earth? I have never heard Muslims describe intimate physical relation between husband and wife is any derogatory terms. So should we not think in derogatory terms about heaven. As far I can perceive, Heaven is peace and our companions there will be source of peace.

By expecting reward of good and beautiful companions in heaven, Muslims are expected to not have any sort of desirous or lusty thought. Such perfection of thought is very necessary for Muslims and it really helps to think about beautiful, perfect companions.

I should also mention that having lived in Japan for 2 years, I found that the concept of man-woman physical relationship here is quite different from what is thought by Muslims. So quite possibly people unfamiliar with Muslim culture and ethics may immediately think of sexual urges when "companions of heaven" are discussed, rather than the Muslim perception of "good companions that bring peace".

Sorry, this has gotten a little long.

Regarding your other inquiry
but you don't have teachings like this and get equal rights for men and women without some sort of scripture revision from a living prophet like Moses. If you teach this, then the women are more likely to end up as a meat shield in such stressful situations.

There is mention of being careful of one's wife in the Quran and to treat them carefully. Even at the time of divorce, there is a lot of stress on men to not mistreat them as in the start of verse 229 of Surah 2: "The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness..."

Unfortunately, the words used in Quran are often like in verse 232 of Surah 2: "And when you have divorced women and they have fulfilled the term of their prescribed period, do not prevent them from marrying their (former) husbands, if they mutually agree on reasonable basis. This (instruction) is an admonition for him among you who believes in Allah and the Last day. That is more virtuous and purer for you. Allah knows and you do not know".

Basically many of the instructions in the Quran are just that:instructions. People may chose not to follow them, and unfortunately many people do so in Muslim world today, which leads to another question of what kind of Muslims are they....

Thank you for reading!

RE: Vaseline ?
By The Raven on 5/11/2011 2:19:30 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you very much for the respectful effort you put into your reply.

But I still don't get the virgin thing and why so many of them? And what does a woman get? Dominion over the virgins, right? Are these virgins not of this earth or are they formerly inhabitants of earth?

Also, what sect of Islam are you representing and what % agree with this explanation?

Also, I wonder what your thought are on the alleged societal backwardness of the middle east that we have been debating? Especially in light of your comments regarding holding wives in high regard.

The burkha is totally whack right? I know it is not 'traditional' Islam garb.

Also please comment on "honor killings." I hear about them in this country every once in a while (usually Muslim) so I would guess that they go on a lot more over there. Of course every country is different, but I would like to know the scriptural motivation for it as it seems completely against what is taught in most religions (Islam included).

And finally, if I drew a picture of Mohammed would you hold it against me?

I'm sure you know that these are some of the questions that us Islamically naive people have, and I would just like to know if I am completely off base.

Also I could ask question after question about other religions but I don't see them as crazy as Islam (no offense meant, that is just my current thinking). Especially when you look at the theocratic aspects of the middle east. (Again I could pick on the Mormons and point to Utah for whatever reason.)

RE: Vaseline ?
By The Raven on 5/11/2011 10:02:13 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I replied to this before I read the other replies.
So does this meant that you are of a sect that believes in the Hadith as decribed by nstott above?
The Hadith, or Sayings of the Prophet, is a collection of texts that is accepted in varying degrees by Muslims of different sects. Most Muslims consider most Hadith to be false and made up by past rulers to justify their own questionable practices through attribution to Muhammad.

RE: Vaseline ?
By nstott on 5/13/2011 12:17:14 PM , Rating: 1
I think the problem has less to do with a specific religion, in most cases, and more to do with fanaticism and interpretation of scripture. All religions are susceptible to fanaticism, not just Islam. Look at the brutality under the Holy Roman Empire as one relevant example.

Muslims were forbidden from making images of Mohammad since there was concern that they might idolize him and worship him over God, kind of like Moses’ brazen serpent on the staff had to be destroyed later by the Jews after some of them started to worship it as an idol. A non-Muslim drawing a picture to depict Mohammad shouldn't really matter, but the fanatics have pushed the commandment beyond its intention.

A good example of something similar is how modern Jews are not supposed to eat meat and dairy together. This comes from a commandment to not seethe (simmer) a kid (baby goat) in its mother’s milk, which was a pagan idolatrous practice in the Land of Canaan. Somehow, this was later pushed to the extreme of not consuming any meat or dairy together rather than sticking to the specific commandment and the intention behind it. Extreme Orthodox Jews even have separate dishes, cutlery, and even dishwashers for meat and dairy. I once heard a story about a non-Jew staying with an Orthodox Jewish family who decided to do the dishes when the family was away in order to help out. The grandmother later found the separate dishes mixed together between the two dishwashers and then proceeded to break all of the dishes. Of course, at least they didn't kill their guest over the mistake.

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