One of our readers has spotted something interesting in a satellite image
Although Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have operated from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, for a long time, and some blurred videos and images are available on the Internet, you don’t easily find a satellite photo showing one of these stealthy drones, anywhere on the web.
That’s why the sat image we are talking about is particularly interesting.
Available on Terraserver website, it shows a “Beast of Kandahar” (as the RQ-170 was dubbed after being spotted for the first time at the U.S. airbase in Afghanistan) parked just in front of a shelter at Creech (click here for the sat image).
The date of the imagery is: Feb. 2, 2012.
The drone sits close to a Reaper drone and the proximity helps comparing the size of the two unmanned aircraft.
The RQ-170 is one of the most famous U.S. Air Force (and CIA) UAS.
“The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.”
Although the U.S. Air Force did not release any further information about the location of the headquarters or the aircraft that carried out the attack, the story is quite interesting as it proves that not only are social media used by ISIS for propaganda and recruiting purposes, they are also used by U.S. intel team to identify ground targets, supplementing ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) activities conducted with the “usual” platforms, like satellites, spyplanes and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).
U.S. and NATO soldiers are always made aware of the risk of using social media and, generally speaking, digital technologies which embed information that can be exploited by the adversaries in various ways. Still OPSEC (Operations Security) breaches occur.
The AAR in set to be the last for the two X-47B stealth killer drone technology demonstrators (the other being “Salty Dog 501″): with the end of this testing phase the two unmanned aircraft will be retired and probably donated to a museum or stored at the “boneyard”, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
In fact the X-47B is “just” a technology demonstrator and, as such, it’s till quite different from the planned Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).
nEUROn stealth UCAV has started testing its advanced sensors in Italy.
The first example of the nEUROn UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), the full-scale technology demonstrator developed by France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, has started a new testing phase in Sardinia.
After its roll out at Istres airbase in France, on Jan. 20, 2012, following five years of design, development, and static testing, the stealth combat drone (with a loosely resemblance to the Northrop Grumman X-47B) embarked on a three-year test campaign aimed at exploring the whole flight envelope of the UCAV.
According to Dassault, the prime contractor of the European project, the first phase of tests in France included the opening of the weapons bay and evaluation of the EO (Electro Optical) sensor and datalink.
The second phase of testing focused on the assessment of the IR (Infra Red) and EM (Electromagnetic) signature of the aircraft in full stealth configuration, and was successfully completed at Istres in February 2015. Subsequently, the UCAV technology demonstrator was disassembled and moved, as planned, to Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, Italy, where it will undergo operational testing in the Perdasdefogu range, before moving to Visdel, Sweden, for weapons trials.
The photos in this article were taken at Decimomannu airbase by photographers Giampaolo Mallei and Roberto Zanda as the aircraft recovered from one of its first sorties in Italy.
Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei and Roberto Zanda
H/T to Giuseppe Stilo for providing additional details.