Category Archives: Stealth Black Hawk

New theories about the Stealth Black Hawk emerge as the UH-60 turns 40.

The famous Stealth Black Hawk helicopter revealed by the Osama Bin Laden raid is one of the hot topics of this blog. I still receive many comments about readers who give hints about the actual shape of the so-called MH-X.

Following the last article on the subject and the revised shape of the stealthy chopper, a reader who signs himself “John Doe”, has sent me some emails to show me some interesting past designs that could have been used to design the current secret shape of the Stealth Black Hawk.

The last version of the Stealth Black Hawk features fixed landing gear, unlike the original rendering, that had a retractable landing gear. I “opted” for a fixed gear because a retractable one could be extremly difficult and costly to implement.

However “John Doe” pointed me to the YEH-60B SOTAS (Stand-Off Target Acquisition System) a particular version designed to detect moving targets on the battlefield and downlink the information to an Army ground station.

The only SOTAS built for the U.S. Army (flown in the early 1980s before the program was cancelled in favor of the E-8 JSTARS) had a retractable main gear whose shape could have been used on the MH-X as well.

Image credit: Sirkosky Archives.

“The gear can always retract up into a fairing with doors.  As long as the fairing is properly shaped, it will have a much lower signature,” he wrote me.

“The tail wheel is probably retractable, as it is otherwise a great reflector.”

Then, he suggests few more upgrades based on past prototypes, as the ACAP, the Army’s Advanced Composite Airframe Programme (ACAP), whose goal was the development of an all-composite helicopter fuselage lighter and less costly to build than the predominantly metal airframes in general use.

“I would bet it has a flat windshield with a gold layer, for electrical continuity.  I would also think that it has a fairing to cover the push rods and main rotor mast, plus a fairing to cover the entire main rotor hub, like the tail rotor.  Lastly, there is probably a different IR suppressor as the hover suppressor likely has a big signature.  I’d guess ones like this.”

Anyway, as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter turns 40, the Israeli Air Force celebrated the anniversary with an interesting article on the official website, that provides some little known facts about the famous multi-mission combat chopper that has been in service with 21 countries.

Although it does not confirm the existence of Stealth Yanshuf (“Owl”), an Israeli top secret radar-evading chopper allegedly used to drop spies in Iran, the article discloses, among the others, some interesting details about the Black Hawk activities in Israel and the rest of the world.

For instance, the article recalls that, along with the head of the FBI and, obviously the President of the United States, the Black Hawk has carried the Head of Nuclear Energy, the UN Secretary General and the Pope.

When he visited Israel in 2000, an Israeli Yanshuf, covered in red fabrics and new linings, was used to fly Pope John Paul II. Three UH-60s were used to ferry the Pontiff during his visit: along with the one helicopter carrying the Pope, another was used to carry his medical team and a third was available on standby.

In the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the two Israeli Black Hawk squadrons received a special citation from the IDF’s Chief of General Staff. Both “The Rolling Sword” and “The Southern Bells” performed more than 100 rescues, most in the battlefield, while under attack during the war. “As long as we have you, we are capable of confronting any operation and challenge”, said the previous IDF Chief of General Staff addressing a message to the Black Hawk personnel.

Image credit: U.S. Army

Stealth Yanshuf: the Israeli top secret radar-evading chopper used to drop spies in Iran

According to F. Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon senior policy analyst the Israeli Air Force is equipped with the same Stealth Black Hawk helicopter used by the U.S. Navy SEALs to kill Osama Bin Laden last year.

Believed to be an exclusive U.S. “black project”, the radar-evading chopper (most probably a quiet one, rather than an actual helicopter invisible to radars), such helos would be used by the IAF to drop Iranian dissidents into Iran to gather intelligence on the Tehran’s nuclear program, according to a report written by Maloof for G2 bulletin, a global intelligence newsletter.

This is the first time someone reports about radar-evading choppers in the hands of Israel.

Even if it’s quite unlikely that the Washington shared the secrets of its most advanced helicopter with Jerusalem, considered that the American Stealth Hawk is probably based on 1978 study freely available on the Internet, we can’t rule out the possibility that the Israeli industry has found a way to modify the IAF Black Hawks (nicknamed “Yanshuf”, English for “Owl”) to make them stealthy.

Provided a Stealth Yanshuf really exists, this is what it would look like in two updated versions of the renderings I conceived with AviationGraphic.com‘s Ugo Crisponi: above, the famous highly modified version with retractable landing gear MH-X (please remember this is not the actual designation), whose shape reminds the one of an S-76; below, the more likely slightly-modified Stealth Black Hawk (described here).

Here’s the (updated) shape of the badass Stealth Black Hawk chopper revealed one year ago by the Osama Bin Laden raid

As many readers of this blog already know, I’ve begun studying the possible shape of the so-called “Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk” since the first pictures of the helicopter that had crash landed at Abbottabad, in Pakistan, during the Osama Bin Laden raid (officially named “Operation Neptune’s Spear“), appeared on line.

Based on the remains of the tail section, I asked Ugo Crisponi, an artist at AviationGraphic.com, to create a sketch of what the full stealthy chopper would have looked like after applying some upgrades needed to make it, if not radar-evading, at least a bit quieter.

With some imagination, “grain of salt”, engine shields, rotor covers, an extra main rotor blade (to slow down the rotor speed making blades quieter), some straight lines and what had survived to the attempt of the U.S. Navy Seals Team 6 to destroy the chopper, we created a realistic shape of the “black”, never seen before, helicopter.

Here’s the old version.

Although fairly inaccurate (for obvious reasons…) and resembling an S-76 more than an MH-60 Black Hawk, our Stealth Black Hawk  became a worlwide de facto standard: model kits, documentaries, videogames, articles feature the stealthy chopper I conceived with Crisponi as the actual helicopter secretly serving with the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment).

Furthermore, since we named the rendering  “MH-X” (because we thought it was an upgraded MH-60) everybody has though that “MH-X” was the official designation of the chopper, even if it is only a fictional designation I used to manage the file versioning with Ugo.

Anyway, during the last year, we have continued to receive hints, corrections, official and unofficial comments and we have revised the original rendering to prepare a much more accurate profile of the Stealth Black Hawk that you can find in the image below.

Here it is:

The new version of the radar-evading chopper is much more similar to the MH-60: since the stealthy helicopter is an upgraded version of a standard Black Hawk (even according to official sources), it must have the some basic airframe and dimensions.

Along with many minor details we have fixed, here are the most important modifications:

  1. landing gear: the “new” version has a landing gear as a retractable undercarriage would require an extensive redesign of the whole airframe that is quite unlikely for a retrofit work.
  2. retractable refueling probe: we put it in the very first version, we removed it in the revised. However, as any other special ops helicopter, the Stealth Black Hawk is probably equipped with a retractable probe needed to perform aerial refueling and to extend the range.
  3. chaff and flare dispensers: the helicopter is believed to be equipped with passive countermeasures released through tail section dispensers like those on both sides of the U.S. Navy’s MH-60S “Armed Helo”.

As always, if you have any suggestion, send me an email or leave a comment.

An interesting combat chopper profile officially cleared for publication: MH-60S "Armed Helo"

On May 3, 2011, in the aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden raid that disclosed the existence of a stealth helicopter based on the UH-60 “Black Hawk”, I’ve started thinking about the secret chopper used to carry the Navy SEALs to Abbottabad. Which noise reduction technologies does the chopper embed? Which upgrades render it radar-evading?  The answer to these questions can be found in the digital mock up of the Stealth Black Hawk that has become so widely known in books, documentaries and videogames to be considered “almost official” rather than fictional.

Unfortunately, even if since May I’ve received hundred alternative sketches and comments about the stealth helicopter (known also as “Silent Hawk” or MH-X, with the latter being a fake designation) and I’ve also learned of a low cost stealth retrofit for obsolete choppers, I’ve never had any evidence that the shape that I’ve hypothesized with Ugo Crisponi is really anywhere near the actual one.

Hence, I’m particularly glad to publish a rendering of an existing somehow rare weapon system based on the MH-60S helicopter, designated “Armed Helo” (and not Knighthawk or Seahawk as sometimes referred to), officially cleared for publication by the U.S. Navy. Therefore an exact copy of the MH-60S BuNo.167818  armed with 8 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 2 cal. 50 and 2 FN machine guns.

The Armed Helo Mission Kit, provides the base MH-60S with the capability to extend the HH-60H Seahawk’s typical Combat Search and Rescue/Personnel Recovery (CSAR/PR) role with Special Warfare Support (SOF), Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Operations (ISR), and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) missions.

The one depicted in the rendering is dubbed “Dark Knight” and belongs to the HSC-22 a squadron providing helicopter detachments for Littoral Combat Ships, Amphibious Ready Groups and Combat Logistic Ships, and able to perform wide variety of missions: Naval Special Warfare, Amphibious Search and Rescue, Theater Security Cooperation, Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance, Anti-Surface Warfare, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Utility missions in support of the Fleet and National Defense.

Updated: Mysterious Stealth Helicopter photographed in California is a retrofitted obsolete chopper turned into gunship

Helikopter Hysterie blog’s editor Axel M. Vollmer, who posted my Stealth Black Hawk digital mock up in May,  has recently taken the following pictures of a mysterious Stealth Helicopter sitting out in the open at Torrance Airport / Zamperini field, home of Robinson Helicopters, in California.

Although Alex wonders whether he has stumbled upon a next-gen US military helicopter or has just seen a new experimental chopper, he admits that the black helo parked at Torrance airport must be some kind of fake stealth used for a movie.

Obviously, I don’t think the above chopper has anything in common with the Stealth Black Hawk involved in the Osama Bin Laden raid either. It hasn’t anything you’d expect in a real stealthy chopper: rotor shape, type of blades, noise reduction covers, etc. (without considering that unrealistic AIM-9L Sidewinder carried on the right wing….). Furthermore, not even it would be sitting without armed guards in case of an emergency landing.

However I’d be curious to know if anybody know something more about this helicopter or is able to understand which basic model was so heavily modified and for what purpose (movie, documentary, TV drama series, ).

Update: thanks to Thorsten, a visitor of this site, I’ve discovered that the above aircraft is a derivative of the American Aircraft Penetrator, a proposed gunship conversion of the famous Bell UH-1 Huey, whose name is Stealth Star. According to the official website the Stealth Star is the result of a retrofit of an existing helicopter performed by AEROCRAFT Corp under AEROCRAFT Strategic Advantage Program (ASAP).

AEROCRAFT mission seems to be addressed to government agencies rather than private owners:

“Countries must now defend themselves against the growing threats of small-scale conflicts. These elusive threats, from terrorism to border incursion, drug wars and insurgency, have forced the defense to take the high ground. And the best weapons for this new battlefield is specialized, highly advanced helicopters, designed to penetrate the new combat arena and withstand small arms fire.

Many government agencies cannot compete effectively in this new combat arena because their Vietnam-vintage helicopters are too old. These helicopters share obsolescence, redundancy, and poor aerodynamics, ballistics vulnerability and often carry outmoded weaponry. Aluminum exteriors and blind spots make them vulnerable to small arms attack. The high heat signature from the helicopter’s turbo shaft is an easy target for heat seeking ground missiles. History has shown that 90% of helicopters were downed by small arms fire and 80% of these never saw their attacker.

The cost of purchasing new, advanced helicopter systems is astronomical. And the process can take years of negotiation. AEROCRAFT can help you eliminate these obstacles.

[…]

“Through ASAP, an existing helicopter can be reconfigured into a powerful Penetrator gunship within 18 months. This is a significantly shorter time frame than the three to five-year schedule required purchasing a new helicopter. And, depending on the options required, up to three Penetrator gun ships could be purchased for the cost of one new helicopter.”

Dealing with the tech embedded in this alleged stealth chopper:

A KEVLAR all-composite monococque exterior provides ten times the ballistic resiliency of aluminum. The high-visibility cockpit design improves peripheral sight and eliminates blind spots. A heat-suppressing device on the turbo shaft brings the heat signature below the threshold of heat-seeking missiles. The engine is isolated for increased survivability. Fifty caliber machine guns are stored inside. And, new sophisticated aerodynamics are unmatched by any other Western helicopter.

So, provided that you trust AEROCRAFT Corp. and their ability to modify an helicopter without affecting its airworthiness and flight safety, maybe you can turn your chopper into a real (…) gunship.