Custom stealth helicopters snuck through the darkness, bearing an elite group of tricked out of Navy SEALs with incredible high-tech weapons on the most important counterterrorism mission in U.S. history.And after almost a decade of hide and seek, the U.S. finally caught up to the world’s most wanted man -- Usama bin Laden.
Here are five cool technologies that very likely helped the elite members of Navy SEAL Team 6 get the job done.
Satellite-Linked Camera Feeds
Helmet-mounted cameras beamed live video from the front line back to American headquarters, enabling military and intelligence chiefs to closely monitor the operation, and giving them a first-person perspective from the safety of the Situation Room. President Obama and several key advisors witnessed real-time footage from the raid as he gave the order to SEAL Team 6 to move in.
Hyperspectral Image Processing
Sometimes human eyes just don’t cut it: Our eyeballs typically capture only a tiny portion of the light spectrum. "Hyperspectral" means outside of the spectrum, essentially capturing everything that the human eye cannot see. This kind of imaging technique is so precise, it’s able to separate things not based on appearance but a unique chemical fingerprint, and yes, you can also see in the dark. The National Journal reported that the Black Hawk helicopters that ferried Team 6 in were equipped with these cameras.
A key weapon in today’s modern terrorist warfare, stealth drones such as the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel are fundamental to surveillance. Before the final attack, months were spent on pure reconnaissance; stealth drones, employing video cameras and hyperspectral sensors, streamline this process while staying undercover.
Stealth Black Hawk Helicopters
Photographs sold to Reuters revealed the remains of a top secret Black Hawk stealth helicopter sporting several modifications, a machine that allowed the U.S. team to infiltrate Pakistani undetected. Designed for special forces missions, these choppers can carry up to 11 soldiers and come with three types of guns: mini, chain, and gatling.
The tail design of the helicopter seen in these photos shows an unusual assembly, possibly hinting at a type of previously-unknown stealth capability, experts said.
"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."
Sometimes the most useful technology is actually man’s best friend. According to reports, a SEAL dog was imperative to the bin Laden raid. Almost always German Shepherds, these highly trained canines can sniff out dangerous explosive, provide valuable intel, and if necessary, even attack the enemy.