Operation Neptune’s Spear exposed the existence of the MH-X Stealth Black Hawk helicopter.
The first photos from the Abbottabad compound where Osama Bin Laden had been killed early in the morning on May 2, 2011, clearly shows something never seen before: the remains of one of the helicopters used by the U.S. Navy SEALs in Operation “Neptune’s Spear”, didn’t seem to belong to any known type.
The horizontal stabilizer and tail rotor of the wreckage depicted in the photographs didn’t seem to be any form of H-60. Both the shape and position were not common to either Black Hawks helicopters and the tail rotor featured a weird cover that could be anything from a stealth cover, to an armour plate to a noise reduction device.
Based on the remains of the tail section this Author tried to imagine 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, engine shields, rotor covers, an extra main rotor blade (to slow down the rotor speed making blades quieter), RAM (Radar Absorbing Material) coating, straight lines and what had survived the attempt of the U.S. Navy Seals Team 6 to destroy the chopper, with the help of Ugo Crisponi, an artist at AviationGraphic.com, we created a sketch of the “black”, never seen before, helicopter (that actually resembled more an S-76 than a modified MH-60 Black Hawk so please have a look at a more reasonable shape here.)
Since then, little more has emerged about the black chopper until 2015, when a book titled “Relentless Strike” by Sean Naylor provided some new details about the history of the MH-X.
According to Naylor, the Stealth helicopters that took part in the raid were experimental choppers that had survived a program to make the Black Hawk less visible to radars. Tested by the 160th SOAR in Area 51, Nevada, before the program was cancelled, the two airframes were less maneuverable under certain conditions than the standard MH-60s because of the modifications. Still, in the wake of the successful raid in Pakistan, the program was exhumed, and the “Night Stalkers” flew their “new” MH-Xs to Syria where they took part in the failed raid to free captured American journalist James Foley and other captives from ISIS, on July 4th, 2014.
Although it has never been confirmed, the presence of the MH-X derivatives in Syria was also rumored in the aftermath of a daring raid that killed ISIS high level operative Abu Sayyaf at Deir Ezzor, southeast of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, in the night between May 15th and 16th.
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?
Even if the main U.S. media outlets have already published it, I still think the paper shown below deserves some attention: it is the memo by the (then) CIA Director Leon Panetta, giving the go ahead to the May 1, 2011 raid, dubbed “Operation Neptune’s Spear” that killed Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault. The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am.
The U.S. willingness to use Stealth Black Hawk helicopters during the Osama Bin Laden raid shows the importance of a mission involving Special Forces, aircraft, ships, drones, satellites and who knows how many new/unknown technologies, deep inside a foreign country’s territory, as if Pakistan was the worst American enemy.
As we know, President Barack Obama gave the go ahead to the operation on Apr. 29 at 08.20AM, in the Diplomatic Room, before leaving for Alabama. According to the reports, he had met his “national security adviser Thomas Donilon, counter-terrorism adviser John O Brennan, and other senior national security aides to go through the detailed plan to attack the compound and sign the formal orders authorising it”.
In the cyber age, this memo shows that handwritten papers are still an effective way to exchange secret orders or other classified information.
As hypothesized last year, when the footage showing Obama “stealthily” exchanging pieces of paper with Air Force General Ed Wilson on arrival at Cape Canaveral, Florida, few hours after authorizing the raid, fueled theories according to which the President of the U.S. gave the Air Force General, Commander of the 45th Space Wing, and Director, Eastern Range, Patrick AFB, Fla., information that could be related to the OBL raid.
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….
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