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RQ-170 Sentinel
According to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency, the Iranian military has shot down a RQ-170 Sentinel, which is the U.S. Air Force's stealth drone

Iran announced that it has shot down a U.S. stealth drone within its borders, but the U.S. believes the craft could be an unmanned reconnaissance plane instead.

According to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency, the Iranian military has shot down a RQ-170 Sentinel, which is the U.S. Air Force's stealth drone.

The RQ-170 Sentinel, also known as "Beast of Kandahar," is an unmanned drone that was developed by Lockheed Martin and based in Afghanistan. It has an isosceles trapezoid-shaped inlet, which is a common shape for stealthy aircraft. Its main purpose is to carry out secret missions into Pakistan and it is believed that the drone also secretly spies on Iranian military sites. Initially, the U.S. Air Force denied the existence of the drone in order to keep it classified, and it is still unknown how many of them exist.

Iran announced that it had shot down and captured the RQ-170 on Sunday after it had violated the country's airspace near the eastern border, but the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are not so sure. U.S. officials say there is no evidence that the drone had been shot down.

NATO noted that Iran may have instead found an unmanned reconnaissance plane, which was lost while flying over western Afghanistan last week.

"The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status," said NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The U.S.' doubt regarding Iran's possession of the RQ-170 stems from Iran's previous claims of shooting down drone's with no evidence. Back in January, Tehran said its military shot down drones in the Gulf. Later in July, it claimed to shoot down a drone near Qom. Tehran could not produce evidence of either incident.

It is currently unknown what kind of U.S. drone has disappeared, but if Iran's military really does have the RQ-170 in its possession, it could be problematic for the U.S. since the drone contains its powerful "technological secrets" such as high-tech cameras, listening systems, and coatings/materials that make it challenging to identify.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Tehran may not be able to copy the technology itself, but it could sell the drone to Russia or China for that purpose.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC

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RE: Uhh...what?
By nafhan on 12/5/2011 5:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
you and I are not going to know the real story
That's the important thing to understand. You bring up the right conspiracy theories (or even just theories), and you can make any of the PoV's here make sense.

Also, there are clear advantages to having a policy of "neither confirm nor deny".

RE: Uhh...what?
By GulWestfale on 12/5/2011 7:33:21 PM , Rating: 2
several serious news outlets have reported that US officials acknowledged YESTERDAY that they are indeed missing a drone.

if the US could prove (with video or telemetry data) that this was just a 'normal' crash, they would have done so by now, as they usually do when a crash happens.

they chose not to do so this time, which means i'm inclined to believe the iranians.

RE: Uhh...what?
By Solandri on 12/5/2011 8:04:03 PM , Rating: 4
If they had normal video and telemetry from the drone, chances are it wouldn't have been lost. From the amateur UAV videos I've watched, when you lose control of one of them, the first thing to go is the video (it being the highest bandwidth), followed by the telemetry and controls.

Given how much these things cost, they're most likely programmed to enter into a safe loiter state should they ever lose contact with home. So probably what's going on is the USAF is lost contact with the drone, and now they're trying to figure if was downed, malfunctioned and crashed, or is still in the air somewhere loitering in big circles waiting for them to call it home.

RE: Uhh...what?
By ender707 on 12/5/2011 8:34:12 PM , Rating: 4
Even cheap (roughly 200 bucks) remote control airplane equipment used for making hobby-grade UAVs for fun has a feature built in called "Return to home" when signal is lost using GPS.

RE: Uhh...what?
By ekv on 12/6/2011 3:42:07 PM , Rating: 3
Lockheed Martin engineers that just read your post likely said, "no kidding? hmm, that gives me an idea."

RE: Uhh...what?
By Cypherdude1 on 12/5/2011 7:56:27 PM , Rating: 2
If the US lost and Iran really did find an intact stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, it would be one of the biggest technological gains in US history. Only Stalin's spying on Los Alamos National Laboratory

by the Cohens would be bigger.

If the US really did lose a stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, it probably means it was deployed too quickly into the field. If this really did happen, a lot of people need to be fired.

RE: Uhh...what?
By GulWestfale on 12/5/2011 10:03:55 PM , Rating: 2
i think you're taking this whole "stealth" stuff waaaay too seriously. it's not some magical pixie dust, it's just a collection of technologies designed to make a machine harder to detect.

iran receives help from both the russians and the chinese, why wouldn't they be able to down one of these things? why would this be new to them? a gain, yes, but a breakthrough comparable with stealing atomic secrets in the 1940's? please.

RE: Uhh...what?
By Ammohunt on 12/5/2011 10:18:33 PM , Rating: 2
the Sentinel represents technology that is at least 20 years old. Still a loss but without the satellite infrastructure pretty useless to the goat herders in Iran.

RE: Uhh...what?
By ekv on 12/6/2011 3:46:10 PM , Rating: 2
I've always wondered if they have a Mission-Impossible-esque self-destruct mechanism on-board? Just for situations like this.

Others have stated the technology is relatively old, but that's not really the point. The point is that, even the camel jockeys in Pakistan knew what to do with downed American flight gear. I'd bet it takes less than 3 days before the Chinese buy it.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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