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.

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Image credit: Cassidian



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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.