It shows a U.S. soldier posing in front of a seemingly radar-evading helicopter that doesn’t remind me any known type of American helo.
The image file seems to be genuine and includes seemigly valid EXIF data (see below for details). I’ve just blurred the nametag and face of the U.S. Army serviceman (until I’m able to contact the user who uploaded it to ask him some questions – so far I’ve got no answer) just in case the image was leaked by accident on the Internet for anyone to see, share, download etc.
However, since it’s hard to believe that anyone would post a picture of a secret chopper online posing next to it, the helicopter in the image, with some typical stealth features (including an F-117 type of nose as the one designed in 1978 for the stealth UH-60), could just be a full scale model used for a movie.
Indeed, a new movie titled Zero Dark Thirty, is due out Dec. 19. It will recall the chronicle of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. Here’s the film’s teaser trailer.
Is the one in the picture the fictional chopper used in the new movie or something else?
The new Z-19 does not have a cool name, but it does have some very interesting features.
The use of the word ‘Stealth’ is probably a little too strong a term for this new helicopter as the stealth used is not in the classical sense. In the case of the Z-19, it’s acoustic stealthiness along with exhausts that shield the aircraft from Infra-red threats, rather than radar-absorbing materials and shapes like the modified Stealth Black Hawk used in the Osama Bin Laden raid.
The Z-19 is being developed by Harbin Aircraft Industrial Corporation and is suspected to operate alongside the larger Z-10 which is roughly the size of a Ah-64 Apache and is more of a tank killer. Moreover, the Z-10 is now entering front line service with the smaller Z-19 a few years behind.
The Z-19 is roughly the size of an OH-58 Kiowa and made its first flight in May 2010. Although it has been reported that one prototype was lost during September 2010, there are no details of the cause of the crash or even if there were fatalities. The fuselage is the usual slim tandem cockpit design, although unlike most gunship designs the pilot sits in the front seat with the gunner in the elevated rear seat. The chin turret sits in the usual place and the cabin has the distinct look of the Agusta A-129 about it.
Moving to the rear of the aircraft, the Z-19 has exhuasts that point up reducing the infra-red signature, ‘stubby’ wings with hard points and the tail boom whose look remind the AH-66 Comanche with the fenestron tail. It’s the latter that gives clues to its acoustic damping that is ideal for a forward scout able to creep up on an unsuspecting enemy or provide targeting data for its partner in crime the Z-10.
The Z-19 boasts armour plating for its crew along with crash resisting seats; the chin turret has FLIR, TV and a laser range finder. The chopper can carry a wide weapons load including 23mm gun pods, anti-tank and air-to-air missiles giving it a wide-ranging punch. A range of 700km, a service ceiling of 2,400 m and a cruising speed of 245 km/h finishes off the performance figures.
The most interesting thing about the z-19, other than its obvious evolution over previous designs, is its export potential to countries that do not have the big budgets and are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Apache’s, Hinds and Z-10s.
China could find it has a best seller on its hands if it capitalizes on the new helicopters potential.
Its in service date is unknown. However, since it is currently in an advanced flight testing program, the PLAAF should be taking delivery of the Z-19 within the next few years.
Although it’s hard to believe, I’m almost sure that the Stealth Black Hawk that crashed during the Osama Bin Laden raid has never been officially or unofficially named “MH-X”. Still, if you google “MH-X” you’ll find thousands articles that give it as the designation of the Stealth chopper project.
So, how’s this weird designation become so widely known? Simple: it was derived from the file name I and Ugo gave to very first version of the rendering of the Black Helicopter. We named it MH-X because we thought it was an upgraded MH-60 but since we didn’t know which could be the exact desigantion we used the “X” meaning a mysterious number. So all the files with the renderings of the helicopter that I’ve uploaded to this website were all named mh-x.jpg or mhx-2B.jpg or mhx-2011 (sometimes with numbers used to identify the different revision: for example mh-x3.jpg, mh-x4.jpg, mh-x4 new2, etc.).
Noteworthy, even for the artwork prepared for AviationGraphic.com website we used the designation MH-X even if it was clearly fictional!
By the way, the last one is named MH-X-2011_I and, unlike the F-35I, the “I” suffix doesnt identify any special version developed for Israel….
Hence, unless some of my readers will be able to prove that the MH-X project existed before we used it (in fact, I can’t completely rule out the possibility that we used the correct designation by accident) I’m becoming increasingly convinced I should write it MH-X™ :)
In the meanwhile, since you may be interested, here’s the “story” of the MH-X concept since the beginning.
On Aug. 14, the Financial Times and the NYT, followed by other media all around the world, published the news that in the days after Operation Neptune’s Spear Pakistan’s intelligence gave China the opportunity to examine the remains of the Stealth Black Hawk that crash landed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Is this really a front page news? In my opinion, it is not, as it was quite predictable. We have already seen videos and pictures of chunks of the top secret radar-evading helicopter, being moved from the Bin Laden’s compound at Abbottabad. Not only the tail rotor section, that had remained almost intact and whose shape indicated that the one involved in the incident was not a common MH-60, but even smaller parts, like the one collected by Adam Roberts of the Economist on May 3, 2011, that had also a Part Number on it.
Furthermore, China is Pakistan’s main military equipment supplier and ties among both nations are extremely tough and, to let things even simpler, Islamabad has never accepted that the US carried out the raid without Pakistan’s prior approval.
Hence, it was quite obvious that Chinese would soon be able to have parts of the Stealth technology used to make a “Silent Black Hawk”. How long does it take for China to have its chopper capable to elude radar? Not so much. Most probably, one or two years, considering the number of Stealth fighters being developed by Beijing and the ability of Chinese engineers to copy classified Western technologies.
Although they can’t be considered as a handbook for Stealth choppers, the fuselage concepts for low radar cross section aircraft configurations designed at the end of the ’70s still apply today and the concepts behind them could be still useful to imagine the real shape of the Stealth Black Hawk.
That’s why I’ve used them to create the famous Stealth Black Hawk concept that will appears in today’s newspapers until the real modified “Silent Hawk” will be disclosed or until China will announce its first Stealth chopper….
Don’t you think that the above helicopter recalls the possible shape of the Stealth Black Hawk (at least of the modified MH-60 that I imagined with Ugo Crisponi)? The funny thing this time is that, unlike the famous Dragon Models Limited kit that will be available from July 2011 and whose box cover artwork was released at the end of May, the above screenshots are from a videogame that was released on Mar. 11, 2011, more or less two months before the doomed stealth helicopter involved in Operation Neptune’s Spear crash landed in the Osama Bin Laden compound at Abbottabad.
Even the crash landing scene depicted above could be similar (althought it should be set at night) to the one of Abbottabad on May 2 before the Navy Seals put the explosive in the remains of the helicopter to destroy it.
The name of the video game is “Homefront”. According to Wikipedia it is “a first-person shooter video game developed by Kaos Studios and published by THQ, in which players play as members of a resistance movement fighting against a near-future Korean military occupation of the United States. The story was written by John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now and wrote/directed Red Dawn. It was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows, and also made available through OnLive on March 15, 2011 in North America, March 17, 2011 in Australia, March 18, 2011 in Europe, and April 14, 2011 in Japan. Its tagline is: “Home is where the war is.”
Kudos to those who, envisaging the existence of a black stealth helicopters in the near future (Homefront is set in 2025), have designed, by coincidence or not, a helicopter whose shapes resemble those of our famous “Silent Hawk” (and much thanks to Marco Olimpio for the heads up).
The video below provides some information about the plot of Homefront:
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