A U.S. defense official is concerned that the tail of a military helicopter left at Usama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound and widely considered to be a "stealth" model could be technologically exploited if it falls into Chinese or enemy hands.
A series of photos that a Pakistani security official sold to Reuters reportedly shows three of the men killed in the siege, as well as wreckage of the helicopter that the U.S. had to abandon due to engine failure after Navy SEALs killed the Al Qaeda leader and took his body away in another helicopter.
The tail design of the helicopter seen in the new photos shows an unusual assembly, possibly hinting at a type of previously-unknown stealth capability, experts say.
"It was a secretly developed stealth helicopter, probably a highly modified version of an H-60 Blackhawk," reported Bill Sweetman on Aviation Week’s Ares blog. "The helicopter's tail features stealth-configured shapes on the boom and tip fairings, swept stabilizers and a "dishpan" cover over a non-standard five-or-six-blade tail rotor. It has a silver-loaded infra-red suppression finish similar to that seen on some V-22s."
An unamed retired special operations aviator told the Army Times a similar story, that the helicopters that flew the Navy SEALs on their mission were a radar-evading variant of the special operations MH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter’s low-observable technology is similar to that of the F-117 Stealth Fighter he said. “It really didn’t look like a traditional Black Hawk,” he said. It had “hard edges, sort of like an … F-117, you know how they have those distinctive edges and angles — that’s what they had on this one.”
The U.S. expects Pakistan to transfer the wreckage back, the Defense official told Fox News, with discussions likely taking place at the highest levels.
Hours before Reuters released the photos, the White House announced President Obama had decided not to release a photo taken of bin Laden after he was killed by Navy SEALs. Bin Laden's body was taken from the compound and later buried at sea.
"It is not in our national security interest to allow those images ... to become icons to rally opinion against the United States," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. "There is no question at all that Usama bin Laden is dead. He will not walk this earth again."
But the photos obtained by Reuters show three other men lying in pools of blood at bin Laden’s compound, allegedly unarmed.
Two men photographed were dressed in traditional Pakistani clothing, while another was in a T-shirt. The photos showed the men with blood streaming from their mouths, noses and ears, Reuters reports.
Their hands and arms were often cropped out of the pictures as they were taken from a close-up distance. No weapons were seen on their bodies, but one of the photos showed what appeared to be a child's plastic green and orange water pistol lying near a man's shoulder.
The photos were said to have been taken starting an hour after the U.S. raid on the facility. Reuters believes the metadata of the photos -- and their similarity to independent photos taken at the compound -- validate their authenticity.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.