This helicopter is on a US military base, shown by Google Maps. I don't recognize the glass windows at the front top.

unknown helicopter

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    $\begingroup$ Google uses algorithms to compress their image data. They will identify the object and represent it with a symbol, and translate the symbol to an image when presented to the user. This is why all cars in parking lots looks like the same car, because they are all generalized into a generic "car" symbol. Same with helicopters. You can sort of see this helicopter is pasted from a different picture. As a general rule, don't use google earth as evidence that certain aircraft or ground vehicle has been somewhere sometime. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @user3528438 No, it doesn't. Google Earth uses actual photos. It does try to recognize objects so it can extrapolate a 3D perspective, which is what is causing the weird border around the helicopter, but that is an actual photo of an actual helicopter. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @HiddenWindshield It sure is A helicopter, but not necessarily THE helicopter. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ @user3528438 Again, no. That is THE helicopter (well, actually a photo of the helicopter) that was there when the picture was taken. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ I just zoomed into a parking lot in Google Earth, and every car is a different color and shape like you would expect, some with sunroofs with truck beds; they don't all look the same at all. With 3D mode turned on, the shape is distorted a bit (especially in the case of a car parked under a tree), but turning it off just produces photography. I'm compression is used, but not to the point of making everything look identical at all. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


In addition to Peter Kämpf's comprehensive answer identifying the helicopter as part of the Mi-17 family, this aircraft is likely to be a Mi-171E, clandestinely operated by the United States government, specifically it is 15-5207. With respect to 15-5207, the pictured aircraft

  • is a similar colour to 15-5207
  • has a similar box in front of its engine intakes (possibly for infra-red reduction)
  • has the same black triangle design around its exhaust
  • and has a similar proliferation of aerials on its tail boom.

Mi-171E Mi-171E 15-5207 in Springerville AZ, 2016 (source)

15-5207 was photographed at Felker Army Airfield, Virginia USA in December 2017; the orignal picture from Google maps is also Felker (note the provided link does may not show the helicopter depending on where you are). Felker is part of Joint Base Langley–Eustis. This aircraft has been noted at -

Understandably, the American military and secret service use of Mi-171E is not widely publicised, although it's known that the CIA has used the Mi-17 in a number of theatres. This particular aircraft carries no identifying markings; it may be connected with the US Army's purchase of 30 Mi-17s in 2013.

The only comment I can find with regard to this particular aircraft is from the Dutch aviation Scramble magazine on social media -

There are rumors that the US Department of Defense are using Russian build aircraft for Special Forces Operations in areas abroad where no western type aircraft operate. Evidence of this is very hard to find. ...

It is known that the US Air Force has the 6th Special Operations Squadron (SOS),based at Hurlburt Field (FL), which is specialized in Foreign Internal Defense (FID) operations. The primary role of the 6th SOS is to assess, train, advise and assist foreign aviation forces in the use of their aircraft, but the squadron also carries out intra theater support of special operations forces, flying clandestine night-vision insertion and extraction, air land and air drop resupply mission with the capability of operating from unimproved runways.

Mi-171E Mi-171E operated by the US Government (source)

  • $\begingroup$ The CIA headquarters is in northern Virginia, the Joint Base Langley-Eustis is in southern Virginia. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Got it, will amend. $\endgroup$
    – Party Ark
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 17:33

Looks awfully like a Mil-17, more specifically a Mil-171. This is a development of the Mil-8 and known as Mil-8M in Russia but called Mil-17 when exported.

  • Five rotor blades.
  • Multi-segmented canopy windows.
  • Raised tail rotor on the left side.
  • Small horizontal tail on the rear tailboom.

Below is a different view of the same spot from Google. Count the number of front windows:

different view from Google

and compare it with this one:

Czech Mil-171

Czech Mil-171 (picture source) which is a variant of the Mil-17.

Mil-171 side view

This is a Mil-171 with the same large freight door on the right (picture source). It looks very similar to a Mil-8 from which it is derived but can be distinguished by the opposite placement of the tail rotor (which is on the right side in case of the Mil-8).

Since this is (together with the Mil-8) the most common helicopter worldwide, it comes in lots of variants. This one here could actually be a Mil-171Sh, as Wikipedia says:

Actual model numbers vary by builder, engine type, and other options. As an example, the sixteen new Ulan-Ude-built machines delivered to the Czech Air Force in 2005 with -VM model engines were designated as Mi-171Sh, a development of the Mi-8AMTSh. Modifications include a new large door on the right side, improved Czech-built APU, and Kevlar armor plates around the cockpit area and engines.

The large door on the right side is very prominent in your picture. Also, the engine exhausts of the Mil-17 are covered by large boxes in case of the Mil-171 which dilute the exhaust gasses and make them less prominent for heat-seeking missiles. It is hard to see in the Google picture, but it seems that helicopter also has those boxes installed. Another change is the rear ramp of the Mil-171 which replaced the clamshell doors on the Mil-8 and -17. It seems the helicopter in the Google picture also has this rear ramp, visible by the tapered shape of the rear fuselage.

Wikipedia also knows that

The US was reportedly considering adding the helicopter to the US military for special forces use in order to obscure troop movements. The US has used some Mi-8s and Mi-17s for training, and has purchased units for allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • $\begingroup$ The Mil-8 and -17 come in countless variations, that's why I show two pictures. It is very hard to find a good one of the right side; most on the Net are showing the left one. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 16:33

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