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?
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….
On Aug. 6, an Army National Guard CH-47 with 38 on board, including 19 Navy Seals was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade in eastern Afghanistan. It was the worst incident of the war in Afghanistan as the Afghanistan war as it approaches the 10-year mark. Hundred articles and comments have been published all around the world, but none of those I’ve read so far, has recalled a similar incident that took place only few days before, when another Chinook, operating in the same region was hit by an RPG shot.
On Jul. 25, in what had been considered “a rare incident”, another CH-47 was hit by an RPG rocket and forced to perform a (successful) crash landing. Fortunately, everybody escaped the downed chopper and there were only two slightly wounded.
So, less than two weeks before a CH-47 and its passengers were killed by an RPG rocket, another unguided rocket had hit the same type of helicopter, in similar circumstances and almost with the same consequences.
The helicopter downed in July was carrying US and Afghan soldiers to Nangalam Base, in the Pech River Valley, in eastern Afghanistan and the crash happened shortly after midnight.
Since the RPG is a launcher of unguided rockets, hitting anything even at a few hundred meters is extremely difficult and requires a certain amount of luck. Even if the target is a large chopper. For this reason, an interesting article published few days after the Jul. 25 incident by Strategy Page talked about a “miracle shot”. A miracle that, unfortunately, repeated on Aug. 6, with a death toll of 38.
According to the Strategy Page article, the CH-47 hit on Jul. 25 was the 17th helo brought down by hostile fire in Afghanistan (with another 84 crashed for non-combat reasons).
In most cases, helicopters are brought down machine-guns, especially heavy (12.7mm or larger) ones. The enemy has also been using portable surface-to-air missiles since 2003, including more modern models, like the SA-16 (which is similar to the American Stinger.) American helicopters are equipped with missile detection and defense (flare dispensers) equipment. Thus the most dangerous anti-aircraft weapon remains the machine-gun. However, aircraft losses to ground fire have been declining every year, mainly because of improved defensive tactics.
Helicopters are fired on about six times more frequently than they are hit, and most of those hit are only slightly damaged (and land normally). Today’s helicopters are much more rugged and reliable than those in Vietnam (1966-71, the first major combat use of helicopters). There, 2,076 helicopters were lost to enemy fire (and 2,566 to non-combat losses). In Vietnam, helicopters flew 36 million sorties (over 20 million flight hours). Helicopters were used much less in Iraq, where no more than half a million hours a year were flown (to support a third as many troops as there were in Vietnam during the peak year). In Vietnam, helicopters were about twice as likely to get brought down by enemy fire. As in Iraq and Afghanistan, the main weapons doing this were machine-guns.
Today’s helicopters are more sturdy, partly because of Vietnam experience, and are more likely to stay in the air when hit, and land, rather than crash.
Unfortunately, not enough sturdy to absorb an RPG “miracle shot”.
There’s no way to procted an helicopter from an RPG rocket other than flying unpredictable paths at very high speed, an attitude that can be maintained only for some phases of a mission. Surely not when the helicopter is heavy or close to the ground during take off and landing.
However such defensive systems react after the first shot, preventing the shooter from taking a second shot. The risk is that Taliban shooters, who seems to be more accurate with their rockets than the past, as the Jul. 25 and Aug. 6 incidents show, may be able to hit the target with their first shot, rendering the countermeasures useless.
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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