Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel

Iran unveils reverse-engineered version of captured U.S. RQ-170 stealth drone

Tehran has just unveiled an indigenous version of the US RQ-170 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) captured in December 2011.

During a ceremony held at Tehran on May 11, Iran unveiled an RQ-170 drone allegedly manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011. The Lockheed Martin’s Sentinel UAV was showcased next to the one that crash landed for (still unclear reasons) in northeastern Iran about three years ago.

Since the drone was recovered near the city of Kashmar, Iranian specialists had started studying the stealth UAV they captured.

In February 2013, a video proved that they had accessed some of the data stored inside the so called “Beast of Kandahar.”

After several unsubstantiated claims, the footage was the first evidence that Iran had found something interesting in the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and its internal hard disks.

“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reversed engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander General Hossein Salami said to the Fars News Agency last year.

RQ-170 Iran

It’s not clear whether the Sentinel-replica has already performed its maiden flight; nor is any eventual modification the Iranian engineers did to the original model. For sure, footage of the drone being flown in Iran would be the proof, the one displayed at Tehran today is something more than a model.

Iran has hunted/recovered two more UAV types since then: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

Anyway as images coming from China show, the RQ-170 has already been copied.

RQ-170 Iran 2

Image credit FARS News Agency

 

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German Heron Drone Hacked and Crashed by Taliban in Afghanistan

In previous article about a German Heron drone that crashed into a C-160 at Mazar-i-Sharif in 2010, we reported the harsh comments by Bild newspaper that defined athe German Army experience with drones in Afghanistan “an infinite history of failures, crashes and embarrassment.”

Indeed, that night crash that left both the UAV and the C-160 Transall cargo severely damaged, was not the first incident occurred to the German UAVs in theater.

In 2002 an EMT Luna X-2000 reconnaissance drone passed few meters under the left wing of an Ariana Afghan Airways Airbus A300 with 100 people on board, was caught in the Airbus’s wake turbulence, lost control, and crashed over the Afghan capital Kabul.

On Nov. 11, Die Welt, reported of a third crash by a Heron drone that occurred on Nov. 8, 2013.

The remains of the drone were located on the following day and, an ISAF F-16 was tasked to destroy it before it went in the wrong hands.

Third loss aside, what’s interesting is the fact that, according to Israeli sources, the incident was not “simply” caused by a failure or loss of communication by the ground station, but may have been cause by the navigation system being hacked.

This is what Richard Silverstein wrote on his blog Tikun-Olam after talking with an unspecified source who told him that hacking is “strongly suspected” as the cause of the loss but “doesn’t know who hacked the controls, but it would seem most likely to be the Taliban or whatever insurgent forces operate in northern Afghanistan.  The expertise for hacking the Israeli drones appears most likely to derive from Iran.”

Hacking of drone’s navigation system by Iran’s cyber teams was among the possible causes of the capture of a CIA’s stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone in Iran in December 2011.

Heron1 2

Image credit: Cassidian

 

 

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Iran will soon display upgraded copy of the captured U.S. stealth RQ-170 drone

In February 2013, a video, aired by an Iranian TV proved that Iran had accessed some of the data stored inside the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone captured in December 2011.

The footage was the first evidence that Iran has found something interesting in the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and its internal hard disks.

On Sept. 22, FARS News Agency reported the news that an indigenous Iranian drone, manufactured through reverse engineering of the captured “Beast of Kandahar” will be publicly displayed soon.

“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reversed engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander General Hossein Salami said to the FNA.

According to the Iranian officials, the Sentinel-replica will soon perform its maiden flight and will later be added to the Iranian Air Force order of battle.

Iran has hunted/recovered two more UAV types since then: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

By the way, the RQ-170 has been already copied, as images coming from China show.

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Iran’s Air Defense Force Displays Indigenous Radar System Capable to Detect Stealth Aircraft

On Sunday Sept. 22, 2013, during the annual military parade in Tehran that marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Iran displayed a new indigenous passive phased array radar system for detecting stealth targets and cruise missiles.

According to Iran’s FARS News Agency, the radar systems was developed by the experts of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base in order to detect fast moving targes at any altitude and speed.

The tactical radar system has been dubbed “Silent Radar System” because it acts passively: it does not emit any radar wave and can’t be detected by the enemy systems.

Furthermore, it can be moved quite easily and can be installed in a short time.

Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli said “The radar is capable of detecting stealth (radar-evading) targets and cruise missiles and enjoys a high movement and mobility capabilities and acts in different ranges,” FARS reported.

Actually, this is not the first time Iran announces a new radar system capable to detect radar-evading planes, cruise and ballistic missiles: in May 2012, the IRGC (Islamic Revolution Guards Corps) Aerospace Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced a 1,100 km range radar system, called Gahdir, designed and built to identify aerial targets, stealth planes and low-altitude satellites.

Still, at least according to what the U.S. Air Force has recently disclosed, in March 2013, Iranian radars were unable to detect F-22 Raptors flying a few miles off their coastline: one the U.S. stealth fighters intercepted two F-4 Phantoms without them noticing it until the American fighter jock radioed: “you really ought to go home!”

In December 2011, Tehran announced that the country had installed advanced radars capable of detecting Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): according to what Iran claimed, they could detect, track and shoot down any drone violating their airspace.

Anyway, in December 2011, Iran somehow managed to capture an RQ-170 Sentinel and later they proved to have put their hands on some smaller ScanEagle UAVs.

Top Image: Photo File of Iranian Radar Unit (credit PressTV)

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Mystery Flying Wing Drone spotted at Palmdale Air Force Plant 42

Taken from a pilot passing through Palmdale airfield last year, the photo in this post was published by Tyler Rogoway on his Aviationintel.com website.

It shows what appears to be a flying wing type of drone, inside of an aircraft shelter located north of the Northrop Grumman facilities at Air Force Plant 42.

Even if the aircraft, most probably an unmanned one, has a shape seemingly similar to that of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, it’s actually quite larger than the “Beast of Kandahar” type of unmanned aerial systems, an example of those was captured by Iran in Dec. 2011.

Based on Rogoway’s detailed photo-analysis, the drone sits in 80ft wide shelter. What’s weird is that, although shielded from satellites, and away from the curious eyes of aircraft spotters, the structure hosting the mysterious aircraft is unsealed, a fact that almost completely rules out any possibility the one depicted in the image is a new black project.

Still, it’s really hard to say whether the mysterious drone is a prop, an X-47 mock-up used for testing purposes, a technology demonstrator, a Global Hawk replacement, a small scale unmanned B-2 or a larger Sentinel (like the one exposed in satellite images we posted last year), or really a new black project (a larger Sentinel).

Image courtesy of Tyler Rogoway/Aviationintel.com

 

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