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Aviation Geeks Scramble to ID bin Laden Raid’s Mystery Copter

• http://www.wired.com/
 

The May 2 raid on Osama bin Laden’s luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, had it all: painstaking intelligence-gathering, a heroic Navy SEAL assault team, satellite and drone surveillance, and biometric forensics.

And now this: a possible super-secret, stealthy helicopter, unknown to the wider world before one crashed during the assault.

Aviation specialists are picking apart pixel-by-pixel the dozen-or-so photos of the copter that have appeared online. They’re assembling digital mock-ups of the aircraft and comparing them to lost stealth designs of the 1980s and ’90s. Speculation abounds, and so far no one from the government is commenting. But depending on what the copter turns out to be, it could shed new light on everything from the abilities of U.S. commandos to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

Opinions about the copter seem to fall into three basic camps. The most-cautious observers believe the wreckage is from a conventional chopper that got so badly mangled during the crash that it became unrecognizable. In the center, there are those who think the helicopter is an Army MH-60 Blackhawk tweaked to make it quieter and more stealthy. On the fringes, the true believers are talking about a brand-new, radar-evading helicopter design.

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