By Tom Reynolds, Export Solutions
This week, we’ve all been transfixed by the news that Usama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces at a hideout in Pakistan. But there’s an interesting footnote to this story, which is starting to get more attention. It has to do with a U.S. helicopter that crashed at the scene.According to various news reports, on Saturday April 30, a small contingent of Navy SEALs descended on bin Laden’s compound in the quiet suburb of Abbottabad. During the 40-minute raid, Usama bin Laden and four others were killed, with no U.S. casualties. The SEALs were carried to the location from a base in Afghanistan via two Black Hawk helicopters, while two other Chinook choppers circled nearby for support.Upon entering the compound, one of the Black Hawks apparently experienced a “hard landing” – crashing in a somewhat controlled fashion on the ground. Following the raid, the SEALs used explosives to destroy the helicopter before leaving. The question is: Why did they destroy it?Both the Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters are controlled by United States Munitions List Category VIII(a). It’s also worth nothing that both aircraft are Significant Military Equipment as defined in ITAR 120.7. Furthermore, many people speculate that the U.S. Special Forces versions of these helicopters have been outfitted with specialized (and highly classified) technology and equipment that makes them uniquely capable to fly special operations missions. These upgrades may include things like stealth technology.

In the days following Saturday’s raid, the internet has been awash with stories of a secret new stealth helicopter. (Or, according to some reports, a “highly modified” version of the standard Black Hawk.)

It’s no secret that Pakistan maintains strong military relations with China. And it’s also no secret that, in addition to thwarting terrorism around the world, the ITAR and other U.S. export regulations exist to prevent U.S. controlled technologies from falling into the hands of countries like Pakistan and China. (China is a listed country in ITAR 126.1, while both countries have substantial entries on the Entity List – Supplement 4 to Part 744 of the EAR, among others.)

Some news agencies report that the United States is now trying to work with Pakistan to retrieve components of the helicopter that were not destroyed during the blast. Ultimately, we may never know the whole story behind the Black Hawk that was left behind.

One thing is certain, though. Faced with the reality of a crashed chopper on the ground, our Navy SEALs felt it important enough to destroy the aircraft before departing. (Incidentally, they also took measures to move the other residents of the compound – including many children – far away, so as not to injure them during the blast.)

This means that, in addition to being heroes for killing the world’s most wanted terrorist, the SEALs are also heroes for trying to further the national security goals of the United States, and doing so in a way that protects innocent lives. If that doesn’t fill you with deep pride and tremendous respect for the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, then nothing will.

Tom Reynolds is the President of Export Solutions, a consultancy firm which specializes in helping companies with import/export compliance.