It took a decade to track and kill the mastermind of Sept. 11 attack Osama bin Laden after tracking the movements of his trusted courier.
The U.S. operation that finally killed Al Qaeda ideologue involved the US special force Navy Seals and was facilitated by a helicopter-borne assault on the compound where Osama was holed in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
The U.S. operation involved the use of a gamut of technologically advanced gadgets and machinery. Here is a snapshot of the key technologies used to track and immobilize bin Laden:
It is reported that the Special Ops team travelled to the operation site in stealth helicopters. ABCNews reported that Blackhawk helicopters were used in the operation. However, the intriguing part of the operation was the dismantling of secret chopper which is said to have been destroyed by the Navy Seals to prevent the technology from going into enemy hands. The Register reported that the dismantled chopper was probably Sikorsky H-60 Blackhawk. The pictures of the remains of the chopper as previewed by Daily Mail revealed that the chopper had extra blades on the tail rotor to reduce noise and the tail-rotor was covered by a pan-like assembly for stealth benefits.
Defensetech reported that possibly RQ-170 Sentinel or the Beast of Kandahar was used in the operation as well. The Lockheed Martin RQ-170 is a stealth unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The existence of the plane was confirmed by the US Air Force some 16 months ago, reported Flightglobal. If these reports are to be trusted, then it would be the drones' maiden operation.
Weapons and Camera
ABCNews reported that the Navy Seals possibly used short-barrel weapons -- such as a shortened M4 or AR-15 assault rifle which possibly fire .45 caliber rounds. The weapons could have possibly used Suppressers which allow the team to communicate when the bullets are fired. The team would have also carried a flash bang or stun grenade which is non-lethal but produces sufficient noise and light to disorient the enemy.
Also U.S. President Barack Obama was able to watch parts of the operation live via a video camera fixed on the helmet of the U.S. Navy Seal commandoes.
The Atlantic reported that bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad was already mapped on Google. A Feb. 2007 Flickr photo shows the Cantt Police Station which was 800 feet from the operation site. The station was then included in the demolition list of the provincial government works department. Techie Buzz reported that US Military used the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to create a detailed map of the premises. The mapping was so detailed that it allowed a simulated drill to be carried. Also commercial satellite companies like GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, which supply images for Google Earth, were involved in providing images of the compound for almost four years. Based on the mapping a layout of the compound was also prepared. The main military satellite involved in the operation was the Defense Satellite Communication System (DSCS-III) and the more secure Milstar.
Forbes reported that DNA testing, biometrics and facial recognition technology was used to confirm bin Laden's identity. Daily Mail reported that scientists compared forensic samples from bin Laden's body with the brain of his late sister. who died of brain cancer in Boston several years ago. The FBI obtained her body and her brain was then preserved and a DNA database was created. Livemint reported that a standard DNA test requires about 20 hours coming up with a match. Daily Mail reported that U.S. officials confirmed that they were '99.9 percent confident' that it was Osama's body. But the confirmation report came faster than the 20-hour period that proves the US military's capability in terms of technology to deliver faster DNA results.
An unlikely hero emerged from the operation, Sohaib Akthar, a 33-year-old software consultant, who had escaped to the mountains of Abbottabad for some tranquility. He had unwittingly started tweeting the events as they unfolded in the Abbottabad neighborhood which turned out be a clandestine U.S. operation to kill the most wanted fugitive.
Though many questions still continue to plague as to how Osama managed to cheat a gamut of sophisticated tracking mechanisms for a decade, the fact remains that ultimately it was the technology that nailed him down.