Iran Brags It's Cracking U.S. Spy Drone, Sen. Lieberman Calls Claim "Bluster"
April 23, 2012 2:25 PM
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Middle Eastern power hopes to use capture U.S. stealth drone to further its own UAV ambitions
It remains one of the highest profile embarrassments of the U.S. Armed Forces and Intelligence community in recent years: the
loss of the RQ-170 spy drone
to the Iranian army.
I. Iran Claims to Have Cracked Drone's Encrypted Data Files
While the U.S. still claims that it was a technical malfunction that downed the drone, many defense experts were swayed by Iran's
of how it jammed U.S. control signals and duped the drone into think it was performing a landing in a similar altitude home base.
The daring kidnapping sent the U.S. backpedalling after initially claiming the incident
could be a hoax
. The Iranian black op drew criticism from U.S. President Obama, who
demanded the drone back
. Iran agreed to return
, but then
mockingly offered to give the POTUS a pink toy drone
, versus the captured flyer.
Now Iran is vocalizing once more, claiming it's cracking into the flyer's encrypted software.
States Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division on state-run television (as
The Defense News
), "I am giving you four codes so the Americans understand just how far we have gone in penetrating the drone’s secrets. In October 2010, the aircraft was sent to California for some technical issues, where it was repaired and, after flight tests, it was taken to Kandahar (in Afghanistan) in November 2010, when a series of technical problems still prevailed. In December 2010, it was sent to an airport near Los Angeles for repair of its equipment and sensors, and flight tests. The drone was then sent back to Kandahar."
Iran has refused President Obama's demands that it return the drone.
[Image Source: Matt Ortega/Flickr]
The comments indicate that the Iranians may have gained access to the flyer's encrypted flight logs. While that wouldn't necessarily be as damaging as if they gained access to the core control logic, it raises the question of how many secrets they'll be able to extract from the captured U.S. air-bot.
Iran is working to copy the downed drone and crack its data, logic files.[Image Source: Reuters]
II. Senior Senator Lieberman Blows Off Claims
Iran's claims have been
countered by Leon Panetta
, although he has not formally denied that Iran cracked the flyer's logs.
U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman
(I-Conn.), head of the
Senate Homeland Security Committee
, was also quick to mock the comments as "Iranian bluster", remarking, "There is some history here of Iranian bluster, particularly now when they’re on the defensive because of our economic sanctions against them."
Sen. Joe Lieberman called the claims "Iranian bluster" [Image Source: Salon.com]
The loss of the drone is a sore subject, particularly amid Iran's claims that it will produce copies of the drone. Gen. Hajizadeh brags, "This aircraft is a national treasure for us, and I cannot divulge [more details] about it. [But we will] started producing a copy of the RQ-170 drone."
Iran has been
working on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
for several years now, according to U.S. intelligence.
The edge the captured design could give it is a big headache to the U.S. as reportedly the stealth technology in the drone -- which was captured on a special
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
mission -- is similar to that used in American stealth fighters and bombers. Amid Iran's
suspected nuclear ambitions
, there's much concern about how far the nation could get technologically.
The Middle Eastern giant may be relatively hostile to the west, but it's also a fast developing technology power. While it's struggled with economic challenges in recent years, it produces over a million cars a year -- the most of any Middle Eastern nation. Aside from being the region's manufacturing capital, Iran also publishes more peer-reviewed research yearly than any other nation in the Middle East. In short, Iran may be a hostile power and be a bit behind the U.S. on the tech curve, but they're by no means clueless.
Iran has been gunning for UAVs for years now. [Image Source: Iranian state television]
It should be interesting to see who's right -- Gen. Hajizadeh or Sen. Lieberman.
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4/23/2012 9:24:50 PM
Obviously this is an uber screw up of epic proportions. That being said, I'm absolutely stupified if there wasn't a 'separate from the system' self destruct fail safe of some type. Even if it didn't involve a big detonation there should at least be a mech to destroy the computer hardware/software via an external, manually sent signal to a receiver that is NOT tied into the on board computer itself...something 'low-tech' and dependable...a couple of ounces of C4 would due nicely. In the event the craft is shielded from external signal, maybe a trigger if it isn't able to phone home for X number of hours. Something...anything! They may have gotten into the flight log but there is NO way they've cracked military grade hardware/software encryption that makes standard 256 bit AES crypto look like child's play.
RE: No Fail-Safe?
4/23/2012 10:04:13 PM
Failing that, I miss the days when the US was a great power and would demand its return. If its return was denied, we'd of cratered its location. Our property; great powers don't respect "finders keepers" rules.
Now, we bend a knee and humbly ask for its return, and walk away with a pouty face when they say no. It's like we're Belgium or something.
RE: No Fail-Safe?
4/24/2012 7:33:38 AM
If the US resorted to it's old tactics it would be put in check in no time, Russians, Chinese and what not would would gear up their weaponry (with good reason) and form alliances to protect themselves against he US... anyways Iran isn't Iraq, nor Afghanistan!
RE: No Fail-Safe?
4/24/2012 2:01:19 AM
...unless it's "username" and "password".
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet. A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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