The ad, which appeared in last week's issue of the National Journal, shows Special Forces soldiers rappelling on to the roof of a domed building. The copy reads "It descends from the heavens. Ironically it unleashes hell."
The building is labelled "Muhammed Mosque" in Arabic and bears a crescent moon and minaret -- common features of a mosque.
The ad was created by Interpublic Group's Texas-based agency TM Advertising for its client Bell Helicopter to promote the CV-22 Osprey, which like the Harrier jump jet is a vertical/short takeoff aircraft due to take over from some helicopters for the US Marines and Navy.
However, the ad was also sponsored by companies including Boeing, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.
On publication, the ad immediately drew complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Bell and Boeing also said they complained to TM Advertising, and have since apologised.
"When the company became aware of the advertisement, we immediately requested that our partner's agency withdraw and destroy all print proofs of the advertisement and replace it with one that was appropriate," a Boeing spokeswoman said.
"Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to have the ad replaced, a clerical error at the National Journal resulted in publication this week."
In small-print at the bottom of the ad, prospective customers are reassured about the efficacy of the aircraft.
"Before you hear it, you see it," the copy reads. "By the time you see it, it's too late. The CV-22 delivers Special Forces to insertion points never thought possible. It flies faster. It flies farther. It flies quieter. Consider it a gift from above."
TM Advertising is fast establishing a reputation for crass advertising. A previous ad for Bell's AH-1Z attack helicopter showed the heavily armed aircraft taking off out of a flaming background. The copy read: "We made it beautiful. Because it's the last thing that some people will ever see."
If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.