The mysterious helicopter involved in the Osama Bin Laden raid

Part 2: Exclusive new picture and a serial number on a piece of the broken helo

When I read the news reports describing the operation the US Special Forces conducted in Pakistan to catch Osama Bin Laden I wasn’t particularly surprised to read that a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying the Navy Seals crashed. What struck me were actually the pictures that were published by the Daily Mail (thanks to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads up!). They show what should be the remains of the Black Hawk crashed during the raid that killed Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, at Abottaville, north of Islamabad, Pakistan (officially, after experiencing a mechanical fault). Military on board the helicopter escaped safely on another helo while the downed one was destroyed leaving only few parts near the Bin Laden’s compound.

However, the depicted horizontal stabiliser and tail rotor of the wreckage don’t seem to be a any form of H-60. Both the shape and position are not common to either Black Hawks or Apaches helicopters. Noteworthy, the tail rotor has a weird cover that could be anything from a stealth cover, to an armour plate to a noise reduction device.

So, to answer to the many questions I’ve already received on Twitter: it can be either a modified existing type (to such an extent it is almost unrecognizable) or a brand new type (that was in fact destroyed before it could go in the wrong hands). I can’t either completely rule out the possibility that the one depicted in the pictures is not a conventional helicopter but some sort of decoy, an UAV or a reproduction…..

By the way, that’s not the only weird thing in the raid and many details of the story still have to be clarified. For example, official reports mentions four helicopters involved in the operation, without mentioning any support asset: I can’t believe no AWACS (E-3 or E-2) were involved providing the “picture”, as the risk of a Pakistan Air Force reaction was high. Furthermore, did the border radars see the formation entering the Pakistani airspace? If not, most probably it is because radars were deceived/jammed by (prob.) EA-6B or EA-18G flying in the Afghan airspace.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. even the coulour is unusual, looks like gray Haze paint not the usual very dark brown as used by US Army MH-60K.

      • That does not look like the tail section or even the main rotor of a RAH-66. I’m thinking it could be a MH-6 little bird. Except you don’t see a cap like that on the tail rotor.

      • They did say the technologies from Comanche would go to other Army helicopters.

  2. More strange things: I have read a post that the BlackHwaks operated from PAF Masroor near Karachi, 750mls from the target. Karachi sounds logical if the US dropped the remains in sea; this is the shortest distance to any sea. It takes a minimum of 8hrs flight time to the targat and with a max radius (680mls), they needed probably 2 in-flight or PAF assisted refuellings. In total at least 16hrs flight time and ~40 minutes for the operation, without having the Pakistani involved is not realistic.

  3. Defo not Comanche (has enclosed rotor). Looks weird, large cross section of horizontal fins, maybe for fuel. Rotor looks v.high speed, probably reduces noise. Need bigger photos of first 2 pictures, preferably un-cropped. Best bet is new Huey iriqu….

    • Update: have been looking at military helicopter pics, cannot find anything like it. Therefore must be new or v.heavily modified. Horizontal planes of this size and sweep are v.unusual.

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