New Stealth Helicopter

By | May 6, 2011

The latest talk on the bin Laden raid has been a supposedly new stealth helicopter that was use by the Navy Seals during the raid. While it is not all that surprising in many respects that we may have a new stealth helicopter. The surprising thing is that it has been kept a secret until now. Although, it has not really been kept a total secret, but a through misinformation campaigns that would have deflect the fact that development had continued on the stealth helicopter programs after the cancellation of the Comanche program.

I remember the Comanche helicopter was actually used in computer game probably about a decade ago, so the existence of these types of helicopters has not been unknown or secret, per se. We have know about the potential for stealth helicopters for quite a while. Since the first Comanche helicopter was developed in 1995 and I am not sure when exactly the Comanche program became public knowledge, but as far as I know it wasn’t a big secret , but just a somewhat lesser known and talked about program and ultimately lesser valued program, since it was canceled in 2004. Here is a report from the time:

February 23, 2004
Army to End Comanche Helicopter Program

Filed at 12:34 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army has decided to cancel its Comanche helicopter program, a multi-billion project to build a new-generation chopper for armed reconnaissance missions, officials said Monday.

The contractors for Comanche are Boeing Co. and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

With about $8 billion already invested in the program, and the production line not yet started, the cancellation is one of the largest in the history of the Army. It follows the Pentagon’s decision in 2002 to cancel the Crusader artillery program — against the wishes of Army leaders.

Pentagon officials said a public announcement was planned for Monday afternoon.

Loren Thompson, who follows aviation and other defense issues for the Lexington Institute think tank, said he believes the Army under new chief of staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker favors ending the Comanche program, even though the service had been counting on it to provide a new reconnaissance capability.

“The Bush administration has now killed the two biggest Army weapons programs it inherited from the Clinton administration,” Thompson said, referring to the Crusader and Comanche.

Earlier this year the White House budget office asked the Pentagon to provide independent reviews of the Comanche and another expensive aviation program, the Air Force’s F/A-22 Raptor fighter.

Although killing the Comanche project would save tens of billion in future costs, the cancellation decision is expected to require the Army to pay at least $2 billion in contract termination fees.

The Comanche program was started in 1983 and had survived many reviews. Initial production was scheduled to begin in 2006.

Below are known facts about the Comanche:

Stealth characteristics. The Comanche incorporates more low-observable stealth features than any aircraft in Army history. The Comanche radar cross-section (RCS) is less than that of a Hellfire missile. To reduce radar cross-section, weapons can be carried internally, the gun can be rotated aft and stowed within a fairing behind the turret when not in use, and the landing gear are fully-retractable. The all-composite fuselage sides are flat and canted and rounded surfaces are avoided by use of faceted turret and engine covers. The Comanche’s head-on RCS is 360 times smaller than the AH-64 Apache, 250 times less than the smaller OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and 32 times smaller than the OH-58D’s mast-mounted sight. This means the Comanche will be able to approach five times closer to an enemy radar than an Apache, or four times closer than an OH-58D, without being detected.

Noise suppression. The Comanche only radiates one-half the rotor noise of current helicopters. Noise is reduced by use of a five-bladed rotor, pioneered by the successful Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-500 Defender series of light utility helicopters. The fantail eliminates interaction between main rotor and tail rotor wakes. The advanced rotor design permits operation at low speed, allowing the Comanche to sneak 40% closer to a target than an Apache, without being detected by an acoustical system.

Infrared (IR) suppression. The Comanche only radiates 25% of the engine heat of current helicopters, a critical survivability design concern in a low-flying tactical scout helicopter. The Comanche is the first helicopter in which the infrared (IR) suppression system is integrated into the airframe. This innovative Sikorsky design feature provides IR suppressors that are built into the tail-boom, providing ample length for complete and efficient mixing of engine exhaust and cooling air flowing through inlets above the tail. The mixed exhaust is discharged through slots built into an inverted shelf on the sides of the tail-boom. The gases are cooled so thoroughly that a heat-seeking missile cannot find and lock-on to the Comanche.

These characteristics combined with ground hugging (aka map of earth flying) are all in keeping with the reasons why the helicopter could had gotten in range without being seen on radar or heard by neighbors until it was overhead. So this really boiled down to three possibilities. One maybe they just took in a Comanche or a few Comanches, and found some other way to get the troops in either by conventional helicopter or some other means, two the most plausible possibility is they specific developed a sort of modified Black Hawk Comanche hybrid for this mission, which they had a year to plan, or third there could still be a black program going on which develops Comanche like helicopters on a limited scale for special forces missions.

Of course there are other possibles of similar helicopters currently in development that the Navy Seals could have used modifications of. One such helicopter is the Eurcopter X3 which can fly a plane like speeds and may also explain why they didn’t hear noise until the helicopter was right over top. Sikorsky also has a similar version the called the X2. While the neither of these specifically match the tail blade certain similar technologies could had been employed.

However, considering how bin Laden was such a high priority target it is very quie concivable that they did develop or at least modifiy something for this mission. Since there is not really any other convicable reason why we would have needed a year of planing for this mission, since we didn’t need to engage diplomatic channels with Pakiastan, but simply find ways around them.

However, considering how bin Laden was such a high priority target it is very quite conceivable that they did develop or at least modify something for this mission. Since there is not really any other conceivable reasons why we would have needed a year of planing for this mission, since we didn’t need to engage diplomatic channels with Pakistan, but simply find ways around them. Once we located bin Laden around that area it doesn’t seem feasible that we lost him (in fact the CIA even had a safe house in Abbottabad watching him), rather it seems the most likely scenario is that Pakistan has been shielding him. Thus the planing was needed to evade detection by Pakistan more than anything, and part of that planing was likely use of, not new or secret stealth technologies, but modified stealth technologies that are not widely used due to cost prohibitablity. Furthermore, it is clear the if the helicopter crashed the technologies did not work all that well, and were probably not widely developed under a large scale black program.

Now of course Obama may be trying to detract from this by meeting with “special operators” tomorrow. While it makes movies and such to have bin Laden killed in such a way, the ideal way really would be to of had him killed in the most indiscreet and insignificant way possible, which would had ddiminished his stature, now the fear becomes that it will be remembered that we used are best technology and everything we had to take him out. Nonetheless, the fact still remains we go him, so it will continue to be a rallying event. Now the best thing we can do is to forget him, because the terrorists would want for him to be remember as a martyr or something. Thus the best thing is to say we got him, and that is that.

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