Opening the curtain of secrecy: stealth helicopters in the service of the United States

Towards stealth

Stealth technology has firmly established itself when it comes to stealth aircraft. De facto, any modern fighter or bomber (if, of course, it is really modern) must have it. The only exceptions are strategic bombers, but this is also a forced measure in anticipation of the appearance of such machines as the B-21, or the Russian aircraft created under the PAK DA program.

What about stealth helicopters? The USA began experiments in this direction much earlier than one might think. The first work on the stealth version of the Black Hawk probably started back in the 70s. Some elements of stealth found their embodiment on the experimental Sikorsky S-75 helicopter, which made its first flight in 1984 and was built in the number of two units.

Opening the curtain of secrecy: stealth helicopters in the service of the United States

Composite materials were widely used in the design of the two-seater vehicle, designed, among other things, to reduce its weight: the mass of an empty helicopter was about 2900 kilograms. Despite many innovative solutions, during the test, the helicopter showed non-compliance with the Pentagon criteria. The project was closed.

The real birth of stealth helicopters was to be given by the famous RAH-66 Comanche program, aimed at creating a reconnaissance and attack helicopter of the future. The program, as we know, ended in nothing and cost more than $ 6 billion by the time it was closed.

The experience gained, however, was put into practice by the Americans. This is supported by the wreckage of the stealth version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, used in the elimination of “terrorist number one” (Osama bin Laden) in May 2011. One of its results is the actual declassification of the unobtrusive Black Hawk that took part in the operation. The tail section of the vehicle used by the US Special Operations Command remained intact after the crash and ended up next to the wall of the shelter.

The serial numbers found at the scene were found to be compatible with the MH-60 built in 2009. The car received stealth-shaped beams and fairing. She was also equipped with swept stabilizers and a “dome” over the tail rotor. In general, according to experts, the success of the operation once again confirmed the effectiveness of stealth technology. On the other hand, it is difficult to judge whether the chosen technical solutions would have been effective if the enemy had modern radar equipment.

Long road

The fact that the appearance of an inconspicuous Black Hawk is not a “spontaneous” phenomenon was once again confirmed by The Drive in its material This Is The First Photo Ever Of A Stealthy Black Hawk Helicopter. The presented photo probably features one of the prototypes (prototypes?) Of the helicopter that was used in 2011. According to the newspaper, the helicopter was allegedly photographed in the 1990s at the location of the 128th US Army Aviation Brigade in Fort Eustis, Virginia. This brigade is part of the Air Force support for the United States Ground Forces. Together with it, the Aviation Technology Office of the US Army is deployed. The latter is probably working on an unobtrusive version of the Black Hawk.

The photo is undated and we have no direct information on any programs the helicopter may have been associated with. Experts believe that the Sikorsky EH-60 radio-technical reconnaissance and electronic warfare helicopter, which has a set of target equipment of the Quick Fix series, was probably used as a base for the vehicle, the elements of which we can see on the presented vehicle.

It is not entirely clear whether the helicopter is a version of the EH-60A or the EH-60L. Both of these modifications received the Quick Fix system, which includes two independent stations: radio interception and direction finding AN / ALQ-151 and electronic jamming AN / TLQ-27. The equipment of the complex is located in the cargo compartment of the helicopter, and its antennas were mounted on the tail boom and under the fuselage. The EH-60A was equipped with the AN / ALQ-151 (V) 2 Quick Fix II system, and the EH-60L received a more functional AN / ALQ-151 (V) 3 Advanced Quick Fix system.

It can also be concluded from the photo that the stealth helicopter received at least two missile warning sensors: one on each side of the nose under the doors of the main cockpit. They can be part of the AN / ALQ-156A missile approach warning system installed on the EH-60A and EH-60L. The helicopter also has two small wings, each equipped with one attachment point.

The relationship with the car used in the elimination of Osama bin Laden is conditional. So, for example, the structure of the tail rotor is very different. Obviously, in the early version of the car, the developers did not pay so much attention to its visibility. Overall, however, the helicopter has all the hallmarks of stealth technology. In addition to the general “stealth” shape of the fuselage, attention is drawn to the original design of the air intakes, designed to hide the engine elements, which traditionally increase the radar signature of the aircraft. The revised nose section bears some visual similarities to the kit Bell developed for the OH-58X Kiowa in the 1980s.

The most interesting is the thesis of The Drive that after 2011 the United States did not stop work in this direction (which is logical given the success of the operation) and the new inconspicuous versions of the Black Hawk may have even wider opportunities.

Meanwhile …

It is difficult to say if other US military helicopters will be stealthy in the future. If we talk about well-known promising machines, then most clearly (at least at first glance) such signs are manifested in the Bell 360 Invictus, developed as part of the FARA (Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft) program and designed to replace the Kiowa mentioned above.

However, there are several important points here. First, Invictus is not the only contender to win the competition. In addition to him, the Sikorsky Raider X remained in FARA. The latter is based on the already flown S-97. Bell 360 Invictus, we recall, exists only as a model.

Secondly (and more importantly) the new Bell helicopter will not be stealth in the usual sense of the word. Its original appearance, akin to the RAH-66 Comanche, is the result of compromises between high performance, economy and firepower. Reducing radar signature is an optional target for the creators of Invictus.

If we talk about other countries, such as Russia and China, then today there is no direct evidence (or we do not know of them) of active work on machines similar to the inconspicuous version of the Black Hawk or RAH-66. The concept of the Ka-58 attack helicopter that appeared earlier on the Web is most likely nothing more than the work of a model aircraft manufacturer. Sometimes information about the “Chinese attack helicopter of the future” comes up, but it is too early to draw concrete conclusions due to lack of data.

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