The video posted above is a scene from the soon to be released Bin Laden manhunt super-hit film “Zero Dark Thirty” showing the launch of the pair of low observable modified Black Hawk helicopters at the beginning of their trip into Pakistan. Some pretty cool footage here. I have been told from someone who has screened the movie that the film’s night scenes are just unprecedented in their visual appeal. Like I said this will probably be the biggest film of the year, if not in ticket sales (R rating does not help sales) than in general buzz and notoriety. Currently the film has a 100% on In other words it is most likely a fantastic piece of cinema regardless of the politics and subject matter involved. Like James Cameron’s opus “Titanic” we all know the ending of this film before it even begins. So after unending press, a slew of documentaries, and dozens of books released over the last year and a half discussing every detail of the subject matter, if Zero Dark Thirty can still grab our attention and hold it for over two hours and maybe even leave us thinking about the experience the next day, then Director Kathryn Bigelow has done something very, very right.

Ok, let’s get back to the stealth choppers used in the movie, these things already almost punk’d us once, at least now we can set the record straight as to their true origin and their creative use in the film. Bigelow goes to the extremes when it comes to authenticity of location, set design and art direction in her films, Zero Dark Thirty may very well take this “method directing” trend to the next level. Emanuel Levy has a fantastic background writeup on the helicopters and the general expeditionary nature of filming the movie as a whole that is really worth reading,:

Now forthe never ending question: Do I think this (the prop in the movie) is what the real helicopters look like? No, not really. I believe this is what they may have looked like (generally, minus some lame additions added by a military aviation “expert” no doubt) if they were fielded in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The real “Stealth Hawk,” or whatever you want to call it, will look more “organic,” rounded in certain areas and generally flowing in nature as it would use extensive composite construction, with its whole exoskeleton potentially being an entirely different shell than the standard H-60/S-70. Hawk Works, Sikorsky’s advanced Black Hawk H-60/S-70 modification center in New York State, is said to have been working on a fully composite Black Hawk derivative, with weight and strength being a major advantage of doing so, albeit so is tailoring the exact shaping of a fuselage for providing highly reduced low radar cross section. Anyway, even the paint is wrong on the helos seen in the move as we know (because we have pictures from the aftermath of the raid) that the real version used the silver tinted infra-red reflective paint which also most likely had some radar absorbing capability (read about the Bin Laden raid and these helicopters for hours if you wish by clicking here). It is clear that the “hard proof” tail section left at the Bin Laden compound was much meatier and more rounded than the representations seen in the film. We do have to remember that Bigelow and company received unprecedented assistance by Obama Administration and the US Defense apparatus in the making of this movie, so protecting the helicopter’s true form may have been a consultation prize for the federal government’s great cooperation. But really, who cares? In the end this movie looks fantastic and the reviews agree glowingly, I cannot wait to see it, but then again you are talking to a guy that dissected Mark Owen’s unsanctioned account of the Bin Laden, raid titled “No Easy Day,” and posted a review and all the revelations found in the book here in detail within four six hours of its digital release…

UPDATE: It appears I was right when it comes to Bigelow working with the Pentagon on not making the Stealth Hawk props look to realistic, read this-

Programming note: I am debating running a story on the Stealth Choppers and their origins in the near future, keep an eye out for this post. If I go ahead with the story it should be up in the next two weeks or so.

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  1. Collin says:

    Another great post, Ty. I hope you decide to go ahead with more stealth helicopter analysis, this content is one of the things that keeps me coming back here. Keep up the great work.

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