5 State of the Art Military Technologies That Helped Take Out Bin Laden
Custom stealth helicopters snuck through the darkness, bearing an elite group of tricked out of Navy SEALs with incredible high-tech weapons on the most important counterterrorism mission in U.S. history.And after almost a decade of hide and seek, the U.S. finally caught up to the world’s most wanted man -- Usama bin Laden.
Here are five cool technologies that very likely helped the elite members of Navy SEAL Team 6 get the job done.
Satellite-Linked Camera Feeds
Hyperspectral Image Processing
Sometimes human eyes just don’t cut it: Our eyeballs typically capture only a tiny portion of the light spectrum. "Hyperspectral" means outside of the spectrum, essentially capturing everything that the human eye cannot see. This kind of imaging technique is so precise, it’s able to separate things not based on appearance but a unique chemical fingerprint, and yes, you can also see in the dark. The National Journal reported that the Black Hawk helicopters that ferried Team 6 in were equipped with these cameras.
Stealth Black Hawk Helicopters
Photographs sold to Reuters revealed the remains of a top secret Black Hawk stealth helicopter sporting several modifications, a machine that allowed the U.S. team to infiltrate Pakistani undetected. Designed for special forces missions, these choppers can carry up to 11 soldiers and come with three types of guns: mini, chain, and gatling.
The tail design of the helicopter seen in these photos shows an unusual assembly, possibly hinting at a type of previously-unknown stealth capability, experts said.
"It was a secretly developed stealth helicopter, probably a highly modified version of an H-60 Blackhawk," reported Bill Sweetman on Aviation Week’s Ares blog. "The helicopter's tail features stealth-configured shapes on the boom and tip fairings, swept stabilizers and a "dishpan" cover over a non-standard five-or-six-blade tail rotor. It has a silver-loaded infra-red suppression finish similar to that seen on some V-22s."
Sometimes the most useful technology is actually man’s best friend. According to reports, a SEAL dog was imperative to the bin Laden raid. Almost always German Shepherds, these highly trained canines can sniff out dangerous explosive, provide valuable intel, and if necessary, even attack the enemy
'Stealth helicopters' used in Bin Laden raid
The US forces who raided the safehouse of Osama Bin Laden appear to have caught him completely by surprise - and to have avoided detection by Pakistani radar. How did they do it?
One answer, experts believe, is that the special operations team used previously unseen stealth helicopters.
The evidence for this comes from images of the wreckage of one of the helicopters, which departing Seals destroyed after it crash landed in the compound.
The tail of the top secret aircraft survived, providing a treasure chest of clues for aviation experts.
After some detective work, these experts have concluded it was a UH-60 Blackhawk, heavily modified to make it quieter and less visible to radar.
They are confident the raid marks the first time that a stealth helicopter has been used operationally.
It wouldn't be the first of its kind in existence, however. Sikorsky Aircraft built a number of prototype stealth helicopters, known as the RAH-66 Comanche, for the US Army. The programme was cancelled in 2004, due to escalating costs, before the helicopter become operational.
"What's new here is this was operational use," says Bill Sweetman, editor of Aviation Week. "We really haven't seen stealth helicopters used in this way before.
"The bottom line is about increasing the element of surprise. The less warning that the target has the better."
In this kind of situation an escape route for the aircraft might be needed, he adds, in which case time is of the essence.
To make a helicopter stealthy, you have to get rid of certain shapes and areas that are easily picked up on radar, says Tony Osborne, deputy editor of Rotorhub, a UK-based helicopter magazine.
"You have to cover key parts so that the radar waves bounce in different directions or get absorbed...
"The tail rotor gearbox is covered. I've never seen that before in a helicopter. We know things are being played with all the time, but it is impressive to see it put into action."
The tail fin is completely smooth and appears coated in a pearlescent material that looks silver in some lights, and black in others, says Mr Osborne.
"I've only ever seen that on stealth aeroplanes, and it would probably absorb radar waves. Even the rivets are covered - radars are very sensitive and small rivets could give it away.
"The tail boom remains suggest the landing gear was retractable - again, usually it could be detected by radar, so retracting it would help avoid radar detection.
And don't forget the dogs...
- Several reports say an unidentified canine was strapped to a human member of the Seals team as he was lowered into the compound
- It was most likely needed to check for hidden explosives
- New York Times says it was most likely a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, according to military sources
"It looks like the tail rotor has five or six blades. This would mean the rotor could have a slower rotation, which would mean less noise. Noise is caused by the blade tips spinning at high speed, hitting the air."
Slipping under the radar can also be possible without stealth technology. Most of Pakistan's radars are on the ground, and therefore angled in such a way that makes low-flying aircraft difficult to detect, Mr Osborne says.
A Pakistani intelligence official who wished to remain anonymous told the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan that the helicopters were not picked up on radar and were only detected whenseen entering the country from Afghanistan.
He said there were four helicopters, coming in very low.
There has been speculation that there was one more stealth helicopter, identical to the one that crashed, and that these were used as pathfinders, backed up by two larger Chinooks.
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