Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 05/05/2011

Black Hawk down... or is it?

Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound after U.S. Navy SEAL commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. (Reuters)
When the above photograph appeared on the homepage of the Washington Post Wednesday afternoon, my colleague said, “That is the weirdest looking helicopter. It looks like a toy.”

She was not the only one thrown off by the crashed helicopter left behind by the Navy SEALS during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The helicopter is unlike any other seen before, and has the aviation world throwing up all sorts of guesses at it tries to classify the machine.

“A previously undisclosed, classified stealth helicopter,” Aviation Week called it. Pentagon officials, meanwhile, are keeping mum about the helicopter, telling ABC News they would not comment on it.

CIA director Leon Panetta said on Tuesday that the teams were carried in two Black Hawk helicopters, so many in the aviation industry speculate that it is a modified version, with tweaks to the design to increase its stealth and speed.

David Axe at Wired has a great roundup of the hypotheses flying around the Internet, but says the most likely candidate is a upgraded, stealth-optimized MH-60. Axe suggests that the super stealth helicopter was needed not just to hide from bin Laden’s detection, but also to avoid notice by Pakistani troops — perhaps further evidence of the notion that the U.S. did not trust Pakistan.

Defense Tech has rounded up renderings of what the stealth helicopter may have looked like.

It all adds to the mystery of the super secret raid.
Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound. (Reuters)

A photo taken by a local resident, shows the wreckage of a helicopter. (Mohammad Zubair/AP)

Pakistani army soldiers take away the crashed helicopter. (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani youngsters show metal pieces, possibly from the helicopter, collected from the wheat field outside the compound. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

By  |  10:56 AM ET, 05/05/2011

Tags:  Daily Catch

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