Is this the first leaked image of a new U.S. Stealth Helicopter or just a model used for a new Osama Bin Laden movie?

Aug 07 2012 - 40 Comments

Update Aug. 7, 2012 23.45 GMT

Read the comment thread for more information about the helicopter, identified as prop.

Although I’m not sure the one depicted in the photo below is really a new stealth chopper like the one exposed by the Osama Bin Laden raid in May 2011, I find the following image extremely interesting.

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?

Don’t you think it has something in common with the famous Stealth Black Hawk design I made with Ugo Crisponi?

What’s your opinion?

Anyway, here’s the EXIF data embedded in the image:

File Name: DSCN1884.jpg

File Size: 238 kb – 1024 x 768

Camera Make: NIKON

Camera Model: COOLPIX S8100

Date/Time: 2012:04:23 23:53:23

Resolution: 1024 x 768

Flash Used: No (auto)

Focal Length: 5.4mm (35mm equivalent: 30mm)

Exposure Time: 0.023 s (1/43)

Aperture: f/3.5

ISO Equiv.: 160

Whitebalance: Auto

Metering Mode: pattern

Exposure: program (auto)

H/T to Giuliano Ranieri for the heads-up

  • M Brueschke

    No gold foil over the glass for LO, screams mock up to me.

  • I think it’s a mock-up for the upcoming Zero Dark Thirty movie.
    Too many details that are F117 related (just like the 4-redundant air speed sensor) and triangle shaping of the canopy glass. Old stuff and old stealth design school. Note that the main rotor assembly it’s not totally covered just like the RAH 66 used to have. Great RCS amplifier that spot. BTW it seems to be a very cool mock-up. Great photo.

  • DGR

    All I know is for the sake of that kids career I hope its a prop. If that is for real, id hate to be him.

  • alfavega

    Date/Time: 2012:04:23 23:53:23


  • Observer


    He’s wearing the 29th ID patch on his sleeve. That’s a guard division, but some units were deployed to Afghanistan in April, when the photo was apparently taken. There were, for example, 65 guardsmen deployed for nine months in a high-level advisory capacity – a mixed team of officers and NCOs – who returned on July 14th. If the photo was posted shortly thereafter, it might make it a little more plausible – these guys might have had (a) access to restricted areas (b) no actual connection with the assets or missions, and hence (c) a lack of comprehension of just how vital secrecy might be. Could a specialist have done something this dumb? (Have you ever met a SPC?)

    On the other hand, the idea that the film – which was shot in India – would have had logistical support from a VA/MD guard unit is kinda crazy. As, I have to say, is the idea that this guy was an actor in a costume. If you’re shooting a SPECOPS film, why stick a guardsman in it?

    Which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily authentic. Someone else might have mocked one of these things up. It could be an early, unknown, experimental model, long since mothballed, around which security is correspondingly lax.

    But it’s tantalizing.

  • If the time on the image is correct in the camera then it might be a fake as it is bright and sunny outside at 23:53. Also the insignia on the soldier might be of help.

  • Fred

    Looks suspect imho, possible a film prop, looks small for a uh-60 based chopper. It’s difficult to say, if it is the real thing and its an accidentally released onto the net, someone is gonna be fired… Kinda suitable as a cunning government propaganda reminds me of the obsession to only initially release frontal pics of the lateral view of exhausts. Would be good to see the tail.

  • cataphrat1

    90% sure its a model for the movie because it is nearly identical to one in the trailer.

    Chances for the movie prop to be that similar to the real deal is highly unlikely.

  • Air One

    Another hint that it may not be a real stealth chopper based on a Blackhawk : am I the only one to count five blades on the main rotor?
    And by the way, they don’t even look like the Blackhawk one at the root, close to the main rotor hub…
    But David…. They definitely used your great job to disguise this one!!!

  • Nathan

    Original source (in a discussion of the movie)?

    Also, the nose profile appears to match the image in the trailer:

  • JJ Mercieca

    Wasn’t the tail of the crashed one from the Osama mission a silvery hue rather than this black color? Also the 4 pitot tubes don’t seem very realistic .. if they use them as “machine guns” it will be such a /facepalm moment. Wouldn’t put it past hollywood though

  • thorstenwieking

    I would say – fake helo mockup, real Guard soldier. I could imagine the helo being parked on some airfield, the soldier and a friend walking by the craft and taking a short picture, maybe a sign of courtesy for the duty to their country by the film team.

  • Forum post in May:
    “I may or may not have recently been on the set and used as an extra for the movie Zero Dark Thirty”

  • It’s a mock-up from the set of Zero Dark Thirty. Original (unblurred) copy was posted here in May:

  • Dave

    The photograph was taken 2012:04:23 @ 23:53:23? Where? That sure looks like natural light coming through the windows…perhaps its some sort of adjusted ZULU time…

  • Kevin

    If you look at 0:38 of the trailer and go frame by frame, you can see that the nose in the movie chopper resembles that in this picture. I think it’s a movie prop.

  • J. Law

    Right off the bat I see that SPC L is not wearing multi-cam’s. He may have wings but is clearly not on flight status with regular cams. As of spring/summer 2012, all Army personnel were being issued the OEF multi-cam to enter theater. As for the camera time, you have to change it if you want to reflect your current timezone(probably incorrect), which brings up the fact you can change it to whatever you want to disguise truth. Not sure a SPC can pull that off if this one is dumb enough to dump this on the net where we can all see it, if it is a real stealth bird.

    Gonna do a little more searching on a couple of thoughts.

  • The F-117 has air data probes on the nose that look superficially similar to those on this photo.

    But air data probes are not hollow. The four ‘probes’ on the nose of this object look more like the .303 Browning machine gun installation on a Spitfire.

    I bet that in the movie this helicopter strafes the bad guys using these forward firing machine guns. Machine guns that no real helicopter would have.

  • J. Law

    After some easy research, the unit he is assigned, based on his shoulder insignia, was in AFG. They were issued OEF multi-cams based on images on the unit FB site covering that deployment. Was this kid there? Who knows and who cares. Furthermore, they were at KAIA after looking at the images and seeing the IJC patch. I could give the lat and long for where the court is that they are standing so you all can look it up on any earth mapping site with sat imagery. Not necessary though.

    Rant—>Also, one thing I noticed was the Normandy streamer on the guidon. Try not to bag on the Guard. A Major from that unit and an AF LTC died on the 25th FEB during that deployment, at MOI. May not be part of the topic, but it does chap my butt when the Guard gets roughed up. I spent 8 years regular and have now a total of 17 active years and 20+ for pay. I am in the Guard now and I lost 13 friends. While I was over there, a total of 3910 American servicemen and women lost their lives in combat actions.

    So, this kid was probably part of the PAO unit that, maybe, got the chance to be around this movie prop during a previous pre-deployment/deployment. Of course that is if this picture is anywhere near AFG. Yes, it is a prop. I have to admit, I came across some very interest photo’s of this kid though.

    Remember to vote.

  • Elliot Block

    Notice that instead of landing gear, it is sitting on concrete columns…