May 16, 2011 — -- Pakistan will return the pieces of the secret U.S. helicopter that went down during the operation that killed Osama bin Laden early this month, Senator John Kerry told reporters today.
Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the chopper's wreckage -- which aviation experts said was the first public evidence of a secret U.S. stealth Blackhawk program -- would be handed over to American officials Tuesday. Kerry (D-Mass.) met with senior Pakistani civilian and military officials today in Islamabad in hopes of improving relations between the two countries following America's unilateral incursion into Pakistan to kill the al Qaeda leader on May 1.
Following the operation, U.S. officials asked Pakistan for the wreckage back, but Pakistan had not publicly agreed until Kerry's visit. One Pakistani official told ABC News last week the Chinese were "very interested" in seeing the remains of the helicopter. Another Pakistani official said then that the Pakistan government "might let them [the Chinese] take a look."
A U.S. official said at the time he did not know if the Pakistanis had offered a peek to the Chinese, but said he would be "shocked" if the Chinese hadn't already been given access to the damaged aircraft.
The helicopter made a hard landing after it clipped a wall during the Navy SEAL operation that took down bin Laden, the White House said. The SEALs who rode in on the bird attempted to destroy it after abandoning it on the ground, but a significant portion of the tail section survived the explosion. In the days after the raid, the tail section and other pieces of debris -- including a mysterious cloth-like covering that the local children found entertaining to play with -- were photographed being hauled away from the crash site by tractor.
Aviation experts said the unusual configuration of the rear rotor, the curious hub-cap like housing around it and the general shape of the bird are all clues the helicopter was highly modified to not only be quiet, but to have as small a radar signature as possible.
Officials at the U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment on the helicopter, and a senior Pentagon official told ABC News in the days after the raid the Department would "absolutely not" discuss anything relating to the downed chopper. Several Chinese government officials in the U.S. and in China also declined to comment.
U.S. officials have not officially disclosed any details on the helicopter, but President Obama said it was a "$60 million helicopter," in a report by The Washington Post. While the price tag on normal Blackhawks varies depending the type, none cost more than $20 million according to the latest Department of Defense procurement report.
ABC News' Matthew Cole contributed to this report.