Stealth Hawk Down?

Bin Laden gets face-shot

When the Osama Bin Laden raid went down, there was a flurry of news reporting, many initial reports stumbling over themselves as both the media and the White House struggled to get their stories straight.  Who executed the raid?  How was Bin Laden killed?  Who is Seal Team Six?  Our readers already knew the answer to that last one, but you get the idea.  From what I gather, and we don’t have the whole story even today, is that the actions on the objective were fairly straight forward.  Maybe there were one or two terrorists who had armed themselves, but it doesn’t sound like that slowed ST6 down much, if at all.  Everything was kosher until they began to exfil off the objective.

What happened next would reveal a previously classified aviation program to the world and potentially create an international crisis.

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Secret Helicopter

From a training event with 160th back in 2006

As a member of 3rd Ranger Battalion and 5th Special Forces Group, I flew with 160th numerous times in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  I’ve seen 160th pilots do some amazing things with their aircraft.  They put us down on roof tops, they’ve had the co-pilot lean out of the helicopter and deliver fire support with an M4, and I’ve even been on a MH-60 as the pilot navigated his helicopter between power lines with surgical precision to insert my ODA on an objective.  I have nothing but respect for these guys, and it surprises no one that it was 160th that successfully conducted the OBL raid with the SEALs.

While I was in Army Special Operations, I heard nothing, and I mean not even a whisper of any secret helicopter projects.  Not even a rumor about stealth helicopters.  This goes to show how tight the Army’s OPSEC was around this project, and with good reason.  As we now know from the wreckage left behind in Pakistan, at least one stealth helicopter was on the mission, but probably two or three as that is how many helicopters would be needed at a minimum for the raid, and having one stealth helicopter and two non-stealth MH-60’s flying in formation together would kind of negate the purpose.

In this case, the stealth capabilities of these helicopters would be needed to insert a Ground Assault Force into the target area while evading Pakistani radar stations during this cross border operation.  Bin Laden was living near a Pakistani military base in Abbottabad, a town filled with active duty and retired military officers.  Who would’ve thought…

While 160th is based at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, it turns out that there is also a element of the Special Operations aviation unit located off-site called Echo Squadron.  The exact location of Echo Squadron will remain undisclosed due to OPSEC considerations.