STEALING TECHNOLOGY FROM WRECKAGE OF US HELICOPTER
Aug 22 - 28, 2011
Beijing has denied the report in western media that Pakistan gave it access to an advanced US 'stealth' helicopter that crashed during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
The report was recently published in Financial Times claiming that Pakistani authorities gave China access to the wreckage, despite CIA requests to Islamabad for not doing so. Pakistan has earlier denied the report, which has stirred concerns in the United States about the secret technology that could fall into the Chinese hands. Local analysts believe that the report is likely to further shake the US-Pakistan relationship, which has deteriorated after May 2 raid on Pakistan soil by special American forces. China has already had the benefit of inspecting advanced US defence technology that could be used to help develop an equivalent aircraft after the wreckage of a US stealth F-117 Nighthawk bomber shot down in Serbia in 1999 was handed over to Beijing. A decade later, the first Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20, took a test flight, although government officials deny it was based on US designs.
Pakistan shared the wreckage of a US helicopter used in the May 2 raid with China, according to The Financial Times. The report said Pakistan allowed Chinese intelligence officials to take pictures of the crashed helicopter and take samples of its special skin that helped the American raid evade Pakistani radar.
"This report is totally unfounded and extremely absurd," Reuters quoted statement on the website of China's Ministry of Defence.
During the raid, one of two modified Blackhawk helicopters, believed to employ unknown stealth capability, malfunctioned and crashed, forcing the commandos to abandon it. The surviving tail section, photos of which were widely distributed on the Internet, was returned to the United States following a trip by US Senator John Kerry in May.
Analysts in the west believe that the wreckage of US "stealth" helicopter has provided China an opportunity to benefit from advanced US defense technology for the second time after it benefited from the wreckage of F-117 Nighthawk bomber - which was downed in Serbia in 1999 - and developed in ten years the Chinese J-20 fighter, which was capable of rivaling America's best air-to-air fighter, the F-22, in everything from speed to stealth and lethality.
Pakistan, which enjoys a close relationship with China, reportedly allowed Chinese intelligence officials to take pictures of the crashed chopper as well as take samples of its special "skin" that allowed the American raid to evade Pakistani radar.
The US helicopter went down in a hard landing during May 2 raid on Pakistani compound in Abbotabad that killed Al Qaeda leader Bin Laden. The US Navy commandos destroyed it after abandoning it on the ground, but a significant portion of the tail section survived the explosion. Photographs of the wrecked helicopter fueled speculation among experts that new features had been added to it to reduce noise or foil radar detection.
The wrecked US Chopper was a highly classified modified version of a Blackhawk helicopter. The experts believe that the potential technological advancements gleaned from the wrecked helicopter - an entirely new kind of stealth aircraft - could be a gift to the China from its strategic ally Pakistan.
China has been the Pakistan's main supplier of military equipment including missiles, warships and tanks since1960s. Pakistan-China defense relations cover the defense industry and joint defense production and development.
'It is hard to believe that Pakistan has not already taken a close look at the remains of what is widely thought to be a modified Blackhawk helicopter, according to ABC News. Given the Pakistan's close relationship with China, it is possible that Pakistan will eventually share any technological secrets it's able to discover from the wreckage, regardless of whether China gets its own up-close look.
Aviation experts believe that the shape of the helicopter, the unusual configuration of the rear rotor and the curious hub-cap like housing around indicate that the helicopter was highly modified to not only be quiet, but to have as small a radar signature as possible.
US officials had not officially disclosed any details on the helicopter, but President Obama said it was a "$60 million helicopter," according to the Washington Times. While the price tag on normal Blackhawks varies, depending the type none cost more than $20 million.
'The move by Pakistan's government to show China wreckage of a secret US "stealth" helicopter would be a further sign of seriously fractured relations with Washington,' according to a report published by The Australian. These remains, which include unusual rotor blades and an angular outer shell not unlike a stealth jet fighter, could help China in any attempt to replicate the technology.
"There are probably people in the Pentagon.. who are very concerned that pieces of the helicopter may be, even now, on their way to China, because we know that China is trying to make stealth aircraft," ABC News reported Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism advisor as saying in May.
Some defense analysts however believe that although the wrecked aircraft appears to be a modified Blackhawk, the technology in question is not shrouded in secrecy and Pakistan and China would gain little from the remains.
"The helicopter is a modified Blackhawk that is designed to maximize the chance for surprise in conducting special operations," AFP reported Loren Thompson, an aerospace analyst and head of the Lexington Institute as saying. "Countries that examine the wreckage will not learn much from the remnants of the exploded helicopter that were not already readily available in open literature."
China has recently emerged as competitor in the international arms market, offering increasingly sophisticated fighter jets, missiles and equipment that are beginning to rival Russia and other longtime exporters. With the same low-cost strategy that worked for toys and electronics, Chinese firms are targeting cost-conscious customers, albeit in an industry still dominated by the United States, Russia, France and Britain.
Islamabad draws heavily on Beijing for its defense needs. As a close ally, China continues its support in the modernization plans of Pakistan's armed forces.
Chengdu Aircraft Industry Company (CAIC), based in China's Sichuan province, is China's second-largest fighter production base. The CAIC is cooperating with Pakistan's Aviation Integrated Company and Russia's Mikoyan Aero-Science Production Group (MASPG) in the development of the FC-1, whose first flight was planned for 1997 with delivery to the Pakistani Air Force scheduled for 1999.
China had decided to develop indigenously its own radar surveillance aircraft after the Israel in 2000 backed out of a $1 billion deal to sell China four of its Phalcon phased-array radar systems under pressure from the US. In 2005, the China produced its own first modern airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft and placed it in service. The aircraft brought in use wholly Chinese created phased array radar components housed in a non-rotating dome, providing 360 degree coverage.
Under a deal signed between the two countries, Pakistan will acquire four AWACS aircrafts from China for the purpose of aerial surveillance. The Chinese AWACS aircraft brings in use the indigenously produced advanced radar mounted on a Russian-made Il-76 transport aircraft.