A top Pentagon spokesman on Monday would not confirm the U.S. generally or DoD specifically has asked the government of Pakistan to return the wrecked tail rotor of the so-called "stealth" helicopter that crashed last week in the compound of Osama bin Laden. Marine Col. Dave Lapan told reporters he would not discuss news reports that said American officials were trying to recover the pieces, presumably to safeguard their secrets.
Lapan and other Pentagon officials declined to talk about the helicopter beyond offering simple acknowledgement that it crash-landed during the SEALs' assault and then was destroyed by the special operators before they left. Reporters' curiosity about the helicopter has exploded; CBS News, the New York Times and many other international news outlets all have covered what little is known about it.
Lapan would not confirm whether DoD will need to ask Congress for funding to replace the helicopter as a combat loss, although that raises an interesting notion: If the helicopter is a standard Army MH-60 Black Hawk that was modified by its users, it may be possible for the Army to just shift another helo to its specialists for another modification, and as such the service could buy more Black Hawks without revealing that they would get the "stealth" upgrade.
But judging from the widely circulated crash site photos, modding out a Black Hawk to the "stealth" configuration isn't as simple as just bolting on some new bodywork -- the empennage has different tail rotors, some kind of cone that covers the rotor hub, and a forward-swept tailplanes, all of which probably required help from the Black Hawk's manufacturer, Sikorsky, or another aerospace firm.
It's possible that Special Operations Command engaged Sikorsky, Boeing, or another contractor to do the engineering and build the custom components for a Black Hawk's "stealth kit" as part of a larger modernization program: SOCOM has been upgrading its helicopters across the board and commanders may have seen an opportunity to augment a remanufactured or new helicopter with "stealth" features.
The MH-60 SOF modernization program takes Skorsky's new-build UH-60M aircraft from the Army and modifies them with SOF-unique mission equipment.No kidding!
The MH-60M aircraft will feature CAS, wide-chord rotor blades, active vibration reduction and the improved Electro-Optical Sensor System. The most significant modification, however, is the incorporation of two General Electric YT706-GE-700 engines. These 2,500 shaft horsepower engines will give the aircraft a high/hot capability unmatched by any H-60 variant currently fielded. As the MH-60M is fielded, the 160th SOAR will begin phasing out the current MH-60K/L fleet.The problem with this theory is the only way to prove or disprove it is for DoD to come clean -- and, at least for now, that ain't happenin'.