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?

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

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. Prop all the way. Isn’t the thing up on blocks? What’s the storyline – farmer builds stealth helicopter in his barn and goes out to fight crime? Is this an Airwolf reboot?

  2. Sorry, any blind man can tell it’s photoshopped (a Photochopper? Or indeed a Photocopter? Whatever). The heli doesn’t have a proper shadow to match the ones of the crates in the background – it seems to have no shadow at all. Now that’s what I call stealth! Plus the sharpness of the edges of the nose doesn’t comply with the depth of field of the picture. And the edges of the soldier, especially of his right arm, are too crisp in relation to the heli.
    It’s a well done fake, but not perfect.

    • Ah, the “experts” chime in! Why is everything they cannot understand automatically ‘shopped? The shadows of the crates in the background are to the left, in line with the light issuing from the open hanger doors which are out of line of sight, while the soldier’s shadow is directly behind him, also suggests strong lighting from the front (another set of open hanger doors). That would make the copter’s shadow, which is partly visible to the right, right on target. The sharpness of the nose does comply with depth of field. It’s in the foreground, so it’s going to be sharper. Also, the camera used has selectable focusing targets, so if one or several were either automatically or manually addressed to the nose of the copter, that would make it appear sharper than the arm of the soldier.

  3. The F117’s shape is dictated by the limits of computing power in the 70’s. Notice the rotor has a conventionally flat edge? That’s bad for radar reflections and defeats the purpose of the cockpit. The interior and rear fuselage are also suspect. The forward-pointing tubes should be antennae on an F117, but they look like cannon here. As guns they don’t make much sense for a transport copter’s mission. As antennae, they should be pointing upwards on a design intended for NOE covert troop transport missions.

    Those boxes in the background could be anything, but they look suspiciously like the boxes that studio-grade movie cameras are stored and transported in.

    What I’m seeing is a “kitbashed” helicopter. Much like Airwolf or Blue Thunder, they’ve taken a commercial design and prettied it up to correspond with what the movie-going audience would expect a stealth copter to look like.

    All they need to do is stencil “Marine One” on it and they’ll be ready to show the President riding along on his famous mission!

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