Category Archives: Captured Stealth Drone

Iran claims it has decoded the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Drone Intel but provides unsubstantiated evidence to prove it.

Iran has decoded the U.S. stealthy drone intel?
What? oh, umm…yeah…sure

According to a FARS News Agency article published on Apr. 22, Iran has just finished deconding the intelligence gathering sensors and the internal hard disks of the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone that was captured by Iran in December 2011.

Speaking to FNA, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh revealed some data taken from the aircraft’s intelligence system to deny claims by the Pentagon according to which the Iranians would not succeed in decoding the spy drone’s memory and intelligence devices.

To provide four cues to let the US know how deep Iranian engineers could penetrate into the secrets of the drone Hajizadeh stated that

The drone parts had been transferred to California for technical works in October 2010, adding that the drone was later transferred to Kandahar, Afghanistan in November 2010 and had a flight in there.

The commander said that the drone had experienced some technical flaws in its Kandahar flight in November, but the US experts failed resolve the problems at the time.

Hajizadeh added that the RQ-170 was then sent back to an airfield near Los Angeles in December 2010 for tests on its censors and parts, adding that the drone had a number of test flights in there.

As a forth cue to prove Iran’s access to the drone’s hidden memory, the commander mentioned that the spy drone’s memory device has revealed that it had flown over Al-Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan two weeks before his death.

According to Haiizadeh,  “Had we not accessed the plane’s soft wares and hard discs, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve these facts”.

Although it is possible that the RQ-170′s internal memories were not successfully wiped out following the loss of satellite link with the drone giving the Iranians the chance to decypher some of the data collected by the drone the four “cues” provided by the Iranian General are not solid.

The same information could be retrieved, if not on the Internet (the fact that the “Beast of Kandahar” has tanken part to the Operation Neptune’s Spear to kill Osama Bin Laden was very well known since May 2011) with a little of OSINT (Open Source INTelligence) and some spying.

Aviation magazines have published pictures of the RQ-170 at Kandahar showing some modifications (obviously applied in the US) and by simply observing the drone at Kandahar before and after the new equipment was installed could be a sign of stateside work.

Hence, unless something more solid emerges, I think it’s quite unlikely that the internal memory contained useful information:  they were (probably) automatically erased as a consequence of the loss of control procedure and data will never been recovered. However, the circuitry, lenses, memories and sensors are still there and can be evaluated, tested and copied. And, maybe, improved, with the help of some interested third parties (Russia and China).

[Updated] U.S. Stealthy RQ-170 model on display at Tehran in Feb.11 Rallies. With extracted landing gear.

On Feb.11, a model of the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone captured on Dec. 4, 2011, was displayed at Tehran during the pro-government rallies marking the 33rd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

According to the Fars news agency that has released a very small image taken by the Iranian ralliers, the spy robot model has been built by the aerospace unit of the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guards Corps).

Although the one displayed at Tehran is a model (even if some are still uncertain whether the one seen in the aftermath of the capture is real or fake), this can be considered the first public appearance of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel since it was showcased for the first time by Iran after it was recovered.

Noteworthy, whereas the alleged real one had its underbelly completely hidden, the 1:1 model on display on Feb. 11 seems to have the undercarriage extracted and clearly visible.

Few weeks ago Iranian media gave the news that a 1:80 reproduction of the RQ-170 was produced to be put on the market and would be sent as a gift to President Obama, who asked the return of the “Beast of Kandahar” captured by Tehran.

Image credit: Fars news agency

Iran to return the captured stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone to the U.S. As a scale model.

Update Jan. 17 13:15 GMT

Around $4: this is the expected price of the 1:80 reproduction of the stealthy RQ-170 drone captured on Dec. 4, that a group of Iranian youths has decided to produce and market at their own expense.

Iranian Radio Payam gave the news that the toy will be showcased on Feb. 1, in a special ceremony for the 34th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and will be sent as a gift to President Obama, who asked the return of the “Beast of Kandahar” captured by Tehran in mysterious circumstances.

According to some websites, the 30×14 cm scale model will have an inscription: ‘We will trample the U.S.’

Images of the new Iranian children toy’s ads have already appeared….

Above image: Mehr news agency

Maybe this is what Iran meant they said that they had already reverse-engineered the U.S. ‘bot.

This is not the first time a U.S. stealthy aircraft becomes a scale model. You’ll remember the Stealth Black Hawk model by the Chinese Dragon.

By the way, some (more expensive) RQ-170 models are already sold on eBay.

I don’t know the actual price, but some luxury RQ-170 models are already sold in Iran too, as shown on the Aaye Art Group here.

Above image from Aaye Art Group website.

In the meanwhile the U.S. Air Force said it has understood what caused the crash of its spy robot although it didn’t disclose details. Noteworthy, the RQ-170 is still operating in Afghanistan (and maybe even on the eastern border with Iran) meaning that they are either confident Tehran has nothing to do with the crash landing or they have fixed the technical glitch which might have been the root cause of the incident.

Iran's new (amateur) surveillance drone unveiled

Updated Dec. 27 10.00 GMT

Since Dec. 4, I’ve been constantly monitoring Iranian media for pictures, news releases or statements about the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured by Iran.

Even if the news of the once stealthy American drone are slightly fading, on Dec. 26, the Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA, published the images of an electric rone built by students of Islamic Azad University in the city of Heris, East Azarbaijan province.

Similar to a small-scale Learjet business jet (actually, almost identical to the Hondajet as suggested by its markings) sitting on a table, the ultra-light amateur drone is capable of flying 35-minute reconnaissance missions at night, with a maximum speed of 250 km/h and a minimum of 50 km/h. It can cover a distance of 10 km and operate at an altitude of 9,000 feet.

Powered by two electric engines and capable of flying on a single engine, the drone can scan the ground and dispatch the data to a ground station. As reported by the IRNA, according to the Head of the technical team involved in manufacturing the drone, Nasser Nazari Heris, it took only four months to design and manufacture the drone.

Although this drone will remain an amateur project with no military significance, it gives us once again the opportunity to notice that, since it has showed the first (and only) images of the “Beast of Kandahar”,  the regime is stepping up the propaganda war, with frequent statements about Iran’s capability to “hack” and take over remote control of U.S. drones (although the Sentinel may have crash-landed in Iran because of technical failure) or reverse engineer the RQ-170 to build its own drones.

In the meanwhile, on Dec. 24, Iran’s Navy launched the massive 10-day naval exercise “Velayat 90” in the area stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. Iranian submarines, warships, and other naval vessels with their accompanying helicopters are attending the drills. I’ve read no reports about drones taking part to the exercise. So far.

Image source: IRNA

Stay tuned.

This, along with all the previous articles on the Sentinel drone in Iran, can be found at the following link (click and scroll down): http://theaviationist.com/category/captured-stealth-drone/

Size, position and orientation of the captured U.S. stealth drone in Iran: an architect's analysis

Many speculations and very few known facts surround the mysterious capture of the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Iran. While the U.S. claim that the robot was lost as a consequence of a technical failure occurred during a spy mission from Afghanistan (the version that, backed by some local accounts, I consider now the most likely), Iran has always affirmed that the once secret UAS (Unmmanned Aerial System) was ambushed using a GPS-spoofing attack along with a complex cyber warfare operation that enabled its military to take over remote control of the Lockheed Martin robot.

Official statements aside, the only things we can be sure of are the images of the drone showcased in what looks like a gymnasium of a school, made available by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard website.

Whether you belong to the “party” of those who believe the drone is real or you think it is a fake, those pictures ,alongside the footage released by the State TV, are the only proof that the one in Iran is indeed the elusive ‘bot dubbed the “Beast of Kandahar”.

Many details can be discovered by analyzing the few available images that, at the same time, raise many more questions.

Bjørn Holst Jespersen is a Danish architect who has been following the developments of the saga of the Beast of Kandahar on this blog since the beginning. I’ve asked him to check if the gymnasium where the drone was showcased is compatible with the one pointed out a few days ago by a source as the location where the Sentinel was hidden.

Using perspective drawing techniques, by extending lines and establishing vanishing points to subdivide areas using diagonals, he has studied the photographs of the captured RQ-170 to determine both the building and drone size as well as the orientation of the gym.

Here is what he was able to ascertain from the images.

Size

It seems the gym-space is 36-meter long (6×6 meter sections) and about 20-meter wide. The building/drone size is calculated on the basis of markings on the floor. “The assumptions that I have based the reconstruction on are that the circle in the middle is a standard centre circle for basketball, and that there are markings (white lines) for volleyball”  Bjørn says.

“Markings correspond and point to a constructive section being 600 cm centre to centre (this is established by extending the lines until they hit the wall) corresponding with standard size Iranian brick that I googled. This together makes a strong case for the length of the building: the bricks can be larger than standard, but that would make the 300 cm markings for volleyball too wide and also make the 360 cm diameter basketball centre circle too large” the Danish architect explains.

“The width of the building was harder to get a handle on but based on the same assumptions I don’t see the gym-space being more than 20-meter wide. With walls and overhang this would be about 22 meters…unless the court is placed asymmetrically(!).

Orientation

By establishing the vertical sun-angle the solar-time (using this calculator) can be determined. This gives the compass-direction to the sun. By establishing the horizontal angle of the entering sun, the orientation of the building can be ascertained, giving an AM and a PM value.

“The drawing explains “which ray” I calculate. Since the lengths of the sides of the horizontal triangle is calculated from counting bricks, the brick size becomes irrelevant, but the counting could be wrong as could the estimated “entrance point” of the ray. Furthermore, the calculation is based on the end-wall leaving no gap behind the last steel frame. The further back the wall is, the more the horizontal angle will fit the building pointed out by the source.”

“The vertical solar angle is possibly lower than I have assumed due to 3 layer of bricks being 18 cm instead of 20 as I have used (have done some more googling since). This will set the time of day to 09.33 AM or 02.27 PM. If this is the case (and the horizontal angle is correct) the building pointed out by the source will be only 5 degrees off” Bjørn says.

Conclusion

According to Google Maps/Google Earth the size of the building identified by the source as the one where the drone is/was hidden is significantly bigger than that the architect has found (about 5 meters longer and some meters wider too).

However, as Bjørn says:  ”I cannot entirely exclude that I have made some error or – less likely – that the building is larger than the gym-space. I cannot even say how precise the measuring on Google Maps is. But if the building only has the gym-space, and the measuring on Google Maps is precise I’m close to excluding it as the right location. The ratio of length vs width looks about right.

Dealing with the orientation of the tiped off building: “compared to my the sun-angle study it seems to be about 5 degrees off at AM. This is more than I would like to accept as a margin, but realistically, it is still quite possible. (PM is impossible unless photos are mirrored).”

The two reference figures inserted in the satellite images at the bottom are not exact in size, only in orientation. The tiped off location is still within the margin of error – even though close to falling outside. Both because of the orientation, but mainly because of the size which seem too big.

So, if the U.S. were studying a raid on this gymnasium near Kashmar to free their drone, maybe it’s better they reconsider it…. :-)

Stay tuned.

This, along with all the previous articles on the Sentinel drone in Iran, can be found at the following link (click and scroll down): http://theaviationist.com/category/captured-stealth-drone/