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RQ-170 Sentinel  (Source:
However, a Lexington Institute analyst said that all signs point to the RQ-170 Sentinel as the missing drone

Analysts and Pentagon officials have placed serious doubts on Iran's claims to have shot down a stealthy U.S. aircraft earlier this week, saying that the craft likely experienced mechanical malfunctions instead.

On Sunday, Iran claimed that its military shot down a stealthy unmanned RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft which is now in its possession. Iran later said that it used a cyber attack to bring the aircraft down, and that it is "largely intact," but it has not provided any evidence of either claim.

According to Lexington Institute analyst Loren Thompson, there was no evidence that the drone was brought down using physical activity. Thompson added that using cyber warfare to bring down the aircraft was unlikely as well because it is a stealth drone.

"It would be almost impossible for Iran to shoot down an RQ-170 because it is stealthy; therefore, the Iranian air defenses can't see it," said Thompson. "Partly for the same reason, it is exceedingly unlikely that they used a cyber attack to bring down the aircraft."

While the Pentagon may disagree with how the drone was brought down, it's not arguing that an aircraft is indeed missing. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)-Afghanistan, said that he cannot confirm if the missing aircraft is a RQ-170.

However, Thompson said that all signs point to the RQ-170 Sentinel as the missing drone. He added that the Sentinel likely malfunctioned and crashed, and was probably not shot down or attacked in any way by Iran. The fact that the drone was lost indicates that there was likely a software problem.

If this is the case, Iran has a useless weapon on its hand. Many worried that the Iranian military could extract secrets behind U.S. military technologies by possessing the drone, but with hardware or software malfunctions, the aircraft is useless in providing what they're looking for.

Even if the Sentinel is useless at this point, the crash has raised doubts about the use of unmanned stealth drones and their abilities.

Source: Defense News

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By bug77 on 12/7/2011 12:45:15 PM , Rating: 4
Your phone might reset itself once in a while. Does that means I can't inspect the technology if I can get my hands on it?

RE: Useless?
By nafhan on 12/7/2011 12:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of what I was thinking... It's certainly less useful than a fully functional, powered up drone aircraft, but "useless"? I find that hard to believe.

RE: Useless?
By AssBall on 12/7/2011 1:07:23 PM , Rating: 4
Well they probably could infer some things from it, and even reverse engineer it a little bit, but the fact remains is that Iran isn't even close to having the technology to replicate it. They'd have to sell it to China or something.

RE: Useless?
By bah12 on 12/7/2011 1:27:00 PM , Rating: 2
Which is most likely what they will do. Iran talks a big game, but doesn't really want a direct conflict with us. However they will do all they can to make our lives difficult, so selling this to China would be a good start.

The Chinese are by far the biggest pink elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. They have the funds and resources to actually do something with this tech, and whatever that is it wouldn't be very good for us in the long run. But hey by now they've probably hacked the DOD enough, that they don't need to reverse engineer it, they probably have the full plans :)

RE: Useless?
By Cypherdude1 on 12/8/2011 3:27:19 AM , Rating: 1
Incredible. The US practically gave the Iranians one of our top secret technologies. If it wasn't ready for deployment, why did the US use it? It appears that Lockheed Martin or the USAF pushed for deployment too quickly and now the Iranians have it. I can't even believe it.

Perhaps Lockheed Martin or the USAF wanted to give the Iranians a Christmas gift.

It's enough to take your breath away.

RE: Useless?
By geddarkstorm on 12/7/2011 1:29:07 PM , Rating: 2
That's what we worry about.

Just the stealth coating and airframe/engine technologies alone are not something we want in any one else's hands.

But hey, that's the nature of the world and nations--everyone is always getting their hands on everyone else's technology eventually. Just a matter of if they have the know how and manufacturing sophistication to replicate what they find (or the want to do so). The arms race never ends.

Only problem here is this may be our current top of the line tech, which means we won't surpass it for awhile, and could leapfrog someone like China much closer to us.

RE: Useless?
By autoboy on 12/7/2011 2:25:16 PM , Rating: 3
If we even know the name of the drone then it isn't our top tech. Still, the coatings and general design of the aircraft are bad to have in enemy hands but the engine design in this thing probably isn't anything new.

RE: Useless?
By nafhan on 12/7/2011 3:49:47 PM , Rating: 2
Agree. I'd also say that much of the technology that's going to be hard to replicate is not even in the drone at all.

For instance:
1. the systems integration stuff and the factories that go into building something like this
2. the infrastructure for using and controlling advanced drones (having the drone is kind of like listening to one side of a phone call)

RE: Useless?
By ChronoReverse on 12/7/2011 1:08:09 PM , Rating: 2
Not only that, if it's intact, doesn't that mean they can just try various radar methods until they know exactly which are best suited for defeating stealth?

We all know stealth isn't perfect so letting them find out where the imperfections are seems to be a really bad thing.

RE: Useless?
By AssBall on 12/7/2011 1:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe we knew it was broken and a bad design so we "allowed" it to get into their hands so they could beat their heads against a brick wall trying to figure out why we made such an aircraft in the first place. I kid but that's still pretty funny.

RE: Useless?
By JediJeb on 12/7/2011 6:00:02 PM , Rating: 2
Would be even better if it contained an "untraceable" listening device that is right now relaying back to us everything they are doing with the drone :)

RE: Useless?
By bah12 on 12/7/2011 1:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yah but that is the gamble you play with stealth tech. Inevitably part of one is bound to fall into enemy hands.

Personally I don't see why (or maybe they do), they don't have a redundant fail safes on board that do the best they can to self destruct under certain circumstances.

Something like.. lose ping to base for more than x seconds...climb to max altitude and crater yourself. Fall below x altitude without command to do so...blow up.

Of course nothing is foolproof but it would be shocking if one of these could go down in any way without a fail safe doing something.

If they indeed end up with a mostly intact craft (even if the electronics have fried), then I'd consider that a pretty big design flaw. I'm sure a couple of sticks of C4 an some programming would be all it would take to ensure nice bite size pieces.

RE: Useless?
By Spuke on 12/7/2011 1:41:16 PM , Rating: 2
Personally I don't see why (or maybe they do), they don't have a redundant fail safes on board that do the best they can to self destruct under certain circumstances.
Sometimes it doesn't work.

RE: Useless?
By PrinceGaz on 12/7/2011 3:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
The whole point of redundant fail-safes is that one of them will almost certainly work, especially in a drone where the default action if all contact is lost/sensors disabled or malfunctioning/etc should really be to self-destruct.

I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where a drone would be unable to self-destruct, assuming it did have independent self-destruct systems onboard to prevent the technology falling into enemy hands.

RE: Useless?
By Ringold on 12/7/2011 3:12:36 PM , Rating: 3
I'm really buying the trojan horse/fake crash idea. That there wasn't a self-destruct, that they found it largely intact, and that we didnt send some sort of black ops team to recover/destroy it (or just a cruise missile) makes me suspicious.

Heh. Perhaps they planted a USB stick labeled "Miniaturized Nuclear Warhead Design For Dummies" in it, complete with another Stuxnet-style virus. :P

Or maybe the military actually messed up. By the time the truth comes out, we'll all be much older.

RE: Useless?
By wordsworm on 12/7/2011 7:54:33 PM , Rating: 2
By the time the truth comes out, we'll all be much older.

You're optimistic.

RE: Useless?
By fteoath64 on 12/16/2011 4:03:28 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe a failsafe self-destruct is only active during a crash impact like using a "crash-sensor" but this thing landed by itself so did not crash. There you go, not designed into.

Besides, military probably did not include any self-destruct into the craft since they never expected any to be captured. Besides, any self-destruct mechanism, if malfunctioned will be disastrous to their home crew!. At the cost of at least $25M a piece, this is just surveillance equipment.

RE: Useless?
By tng on 12/7/2011 1:50:53 PM , Rating: 2
...have a redundant fail safes...
I understand that they are programed to go to set of coordinates and circle if they lose communication. However that wont work if some part of the control electronics fail or if there is mechanical malfunction.

RE: Useless?
By TheRequiem on 12/7/2011 2:40:57 PM , Rating: 2
It depends how it hit the ground, where it hit and in which way. There have been times where, due to the impact, there wasn't much left of an aerial vehicle. It is possible and also likely they will be able to retrieve some compononents.

RE: Useless?
By NellyFromMA on 12/8/2011 9:34:57 AM , Rating: 2
It's definitely not useless.... Just like the rudder of the helicopter in the Abottabod raid wasn't useless. The problem is now saving face. Seems like a high value target to me.

No excuse for the drone remaining intact....
By Movieman420 on 12/7/2011 1:48:00 PM , Rating: 2
I find it insane that our most advanced war tech like this drone and the stealth helo that crashed in the BinLaden raid is not equipped with the ultimate failsafe...the ability for us to send a signal that will cause a self destruct in the event it gets downed over enemy airspace. The SEALs had to blow up the helo themselves before extraction. Even if the drones main communication is down there should be a backup receiver that can still receive and execute a self destruct order...say 10 lbs of C4 would do the trick nicely.

RE: No excuse for the drone remaining intact....
By autoboy on 12/7/2011 2:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
Because if there was such a fail safe and it fell into the wrong hands they could destroy all our aircraft with the push of a single button. The negatives far outweigh the advantages.

RE: No excuse for the drone remaining intact....
By ekv on 12/7/2011 2:35:54 PM , Rating: 2
I was wondering about that. Good answer. So basically you need to locate the downed aircraft, feed the GPS coordinates to the ICBM guys and have them blow it up? Or something to that effect.

By Netjak on 12/8/2011 9:49:22 AM , Rating: 2
ICBM is not an option against any rogue state because it will start war.
Btw, most valuable tech inside this drones is actually outside - system integration, not engine, sensors or frame. Stealth reconnaissance can be done easy, with DIY tools and of the shelf components. But, actually using that info in real time, and having means to do something about it is another story. They don't have that capability.
so, drone is mostly useless for them.

By JediJeb on 12/7/2011 6:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
Or worse you have something like the stealth helicopter in the binLaden raid and something misfires and you blow up an entire Seal Team by accident. Honestly I would prefer to lose a little tech more than lives. But for a drone, yea some type of self destruct would be nice.

Pie in face
By petrosy on 12/7/2011 5:56:50 PM , Rating: 4
Is this the same stealth tech that "did not" get shot down in the Balkans.

So they shot one down... so what. The military should be more concerned with trying to prevent this from happening in the future than stroking their egos maybe

RE: Pie in face
By cmdrdredd on 12/7/2011 9:43:20 PM , Rating: 2
it is more advanced than the f-117 for sure.

RE: Pie in face
By TSS on 12/8/2011 4:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
Stealth wise it's probably not that much more advanced then the F-117 + 20 years of chinese development ontop of that tech. Considering how stealthy the first US drones where even though you already had stealth technology, and that the tech is still in it's infancy (compared to full blown AI jet fighters which is where this is headed).

They could maybe learn something from the AI, but not much. I suspect much of it is completly custom to the aircraft. While the technology can be reverse engineered, to actually make a drone of your own would require just as much effort as creating the first drone. And if the iranians could do that they'd already have drones of their own.

IMO, i'm not too worried by all of this. Even if they did shoot it down. The tech is still too new for anybody to copy without direct help within the next 10-20 years and the technology develops fast enough that their drones will be vastly inferior by the time they come out.

Captured Drone video
By v9s on 12/8/2011 11:45:13 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Captured Drone video
By WinstonSmith on 12/8/2011 12:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
Wonder why they are making such an obvious effort to camouflage the underside/landing gear of the drone? To hide damage from a crash/belly landing to falsely reinforce their claim to have taken over the drone? Or because this is a mock-up made from photos for ground based, mast mounted radar cross section analysis where one wouldn't need to mock-up the landing gear? The yellow (rather than gray) skin color is also curious.

It Was Probably Running Android...
By Arsynic on 12/7/2011 2:02:58 PM , Rating: 1
...and locked up during a communication session. They attempted to reboot it but the reboot took so long that it crashed before it could get back into the OS. But at least it has a Octa-core Tegra processor and 3 front facing camera's and more apps than the other drones!

RE: It Was Probably Running Android...
By pjs on 12/7/2011 5:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
“According to Lexington Institute analyst Loren Thompson, there was no evidence that the drone was brought down using physical activity.”

Brought down by men who stare at goats … oops … drones.

By WinstonSmith on 12/8/2011 10:25:45 AM , Rating: 2
His inane comment about a software problem rendering a captured drone useless, apparently implying that the drone could somehow be USED by the Iranians if only it's software was fully functional (wrong!) while apparently ignoring the non-functional drone's value as an intelligence asset, his comment that this nearly public domain level stealth tech drone (in case of just such an incident: couldn't possibly be seen on radar (wrong! and that because of its stealth characteristics it couldn't be "cyber attacked" when in fact any attack was more likely electronic interference of some kind using a Russian Avtobaza ground-based electronic intelligence and jamming system that was delivered to Iran just six weeks ago ( inspired me to look up his organization in Wikipedia. Not impressed.

On the jamming thing, I'd wager that the drones are programmed to automatically return to their launch site if they experience technical problems and may even be programmed to fly a route with no required control comms from their launch site, so this may indeed be just a case of a malfunction causing a crash. However, either the person who wrote this article misinterpreted what this guy said or the guy has no idea what he's talking about.

Drone Downed???
By drdrew1984 on 12/8/2011 2:45:56 PM , Rating: 2
Here is what I don't understand. If you have the drone or other technology go down, why don't you have a fail-safe application that destroys the drone before it can be reverse engineered, if it falls into other hands. Sort of like a cyanide capsule for technology. Just put some sort of explosive charge in it. I would think they would have this or some sort of "kill switch" used in all of these technologies.

Easy to down any UAW.
By fteoath64 on 12/16/2011 3:50:16 AM , Rating: 2
Follow it by plane with strong radar jammers (russian has very good ones that can potentially fry a receiver!). Keep jamming until its computer goes into FailSafe mode and it begins to land. Even can just follow it until its gas becomes low and it will land. Then grab it!. Easy, not much tech needed once this thing goes into enemy territory.

Thus UAW certain has no "Evasive technology" program because the military never thought they needed it. If it had, it would have been destroyed by an exocet.

Terminator Salvation like Sabotage
By IcY18 on 12/7/2011 1:40:22 PM , Rating: 1
For those who saw the movie Terminator Salvation will remember that the Machines leaked a signal code to the Resistance that when used against Machines simply turned them off. This code was purposely leaked in order to locate the high command of the Resistance which it eventually did and as a result they were destroyed.

Is the U.S. pulling a similar "trojan horse" here? Acting like they lost this drone but when in reality it is still fully functional in ways unknown to Iran/China?

Only Skynet has the real answer ;)

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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