Iran unveils new UCAV modeled on captured U.S. RQ-170 stealth drone

Oct 02 2016 - 31 Comments

Iran has unveiled a new UCAV based on the captured American RQ-170 stealth drone.

On Oct. 1, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) unveiled a new combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) during an expo showcasing the latest UAV projects of IRGC’s Aerospace Division.

Belonging to the Simorgh class, the new drone is a long-range unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying four precision-guided bombs, modeled on the American RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone captured in 2011.

Commenting on the latest achievements by the IRGC forces, Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said that “today Iran has better aviation systems and equipment than the US and expressed hope that one day Iran will have the same might in the UAV industry as in the missile sector.”

So, it looks like the Iranians have not only copied the RQ-170, but they have also developed something new based on the captured “Beast of Kandahar” whose crash landing in Iran remains a mystery. A sensibly smaller drone that retains the same wing shape as the Sentinel but lacks the frontal air intake of the Lockheed Martin’s stealth drone.

Moreover it’s not clear where does the landing gear (if any) comes out from.

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As widely reported on The Aviationist since 2011, there are various theories about it.

Tehran claims it was hacked, but the stealth drone, undetected by any radar, might have crash landed for a failure somewhere in eastern Iran where it was found (and where the U.S. could not blow it up.)

The Iranians say the RQ-170 was hijacked using Jamming and GPS spoofing attack tailored on known vulnerabilities of the UAV highlighted in Air Force official documents.

The Iranians say the RQ-170 was hijacked using Jamming and GPS spoofing attack tailored on known vulnerabilities of the UAV highlighted in Air Force official documents.

This Author still believes that the most likely theory is that the stealth drone, undetected by radar, crash landed in an uninhabited area in the Iranian desert for an unknown failure.

At the beginning, the U.S. decided not to disclose the news because the robot might have crashed in the mountains, where no one would ever find it, or have suffered extensive damage that would make it useless in the hands of the Iranian analysts. And, by giving the news, they would have admitted they had undertaken spy missions inside the Iranian airspace, thus confirming they had joined Israel in the covert war on the Iranian nuclear program.

However, a shepherd found it almost intact and the news spreads, forcing the U.S. to admit the loss. Iran was given a great, unexpected opportunity to show it to the world and to make some propaganda “advertising” some of their (existing) capabilities in the Electronic and Cyber Warfare fields.

Needless to say, this is just one of the many scenarios drawn since the drone’s first pictures appeared on Iran’s State TV depicting the “Beast of Kandahar” in a school’s gymnasium: a scenario that does not involve any jamming, GPS spoofing, satellite-link encryption breaking and control link spoofing. In fact, whilst Iranians have surely shown skills and know-how in these fields, some theories about taking over of a UAV by means of jamming and hacking *seem* to be a bit far-fetched in spite of known vulnerabilities affecting U.S. drones.

Iran has hunted/recovered two more UAV types since 2011: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

Anyway, in February 2013 Iran released footage that proved it has, if not literally decoded, at least accessed some of the data stored inside the U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone captured in December 2011.

A video filmed by the Sentinel clearly showed footage recorded by the drone’s underbelly camera: the area surrounding Kandahar airfield (KAF) during landing; a small building (possibly being spied); a C-130 and at least one Reaper drone among shelters at KAF.

Hence, the drone’s internal memories still contained some useful information and were not fully automatically erased as a consequence of the loss of control procedure. To such an extent some data, including video recordings from the drone’s FLIR turret, was recovered.

On May 11, 2014 Iran unveiled a copy of the Sentinel UAV drone allegedly manufactured by reverse-engineering of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 captured in December 2011. The Iranian version of the Sentinel drone was displayed next to the original one.

On Nov. 10, 2014, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, announced that a domestic version of the RQ-170 drone, modified to carry out both bombing and reconnaissance missions, had made its maiden flight.

A video showing the copy of the Sentinel flying somewhere over Iran, filmed both from the ground and from an accompanying helicopter was released.

The photographs emerged on Oct. 1, 2016, show that the Iranians have modeled a new UCAV on the famous stealthy RQ-170 captured in 2011. What’s next?

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Image credit: Sepahnews, @Azematt

 

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  • tms5510

    not detected by any radar is certainly is just a marketing pitch. Everything is eventually detectable by some radar at some range,

  • Sir leroy

    “Looks as effective as their ‘stealth fighter’.”

    You mean this deadly beast? It sends shivers down the spines of NATO, the U.S., Saudi Arabia – everyone!

    http://nationalinterest.org/files/styles/main_image_on_posts/public/main_images/f313.jpg?itok=BFAb8gzo

    Lol! This is one bad boy! I’m sure this new Iranian drone is just as deadly (to the toy maker who made it, but only if the glue melts!).

  • PugilistProdigy

    “Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said that “today Iran has better aviation systems and equipment than the US”

    I spilled my coffee all over the laptop, thanks for the laugh!

    • Ali

      This comment kind of reminded me when Obama asked us to return their RQ-170 back to the US. I spilled my coffee all over my laptop and smiled.

      • P.Act

        If you spilled your coffee all over your laptop just by “smiling” then you can become a good drone pilot in the irgc!

  • David James

    Well imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
    ***or***
    The lack of original thinking gang strikes again!

    You decide I’m tired ;D

  • Mahmoud Larfi

    What about their newly captured MQ-1C Gray Eagle ? They displayed it on the same day… Seems that every western news site is hiding this embarrassing story.

    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/irgc-releases-first-photos-captured-american-drone/

    • Четник

      They are now officially in the possession of three different types of heavy Western made UAVs. Western media doesn’t want to talk about this because the drones appear almost in perfect condition. That implies they landed relatively smoothly on Iranian soil. And it would be embarrassing for the US to admit that Iran took over the controls of their drones. Iranians have capable electronic warfare systems.

  • Uniform223

    Iran has had the F-14 for over 30 years now… and they have never been able to truly reverse engineer the Tomcat and make something something close to or equivalent. Now they were LUCKY to have a classified US drone crash in their country (the idea they were able to hack its signal is male bovine excrement to me) and the best they were able to come up with 2 years later was some whack-a$$ fake POS “stealth fighter” mock up? Now this? I wonder how much of that is also propaganda BS.

    • Sir leroy

      “I wonder how much of that is also propaganda BS.”

      All of it!

    • Pepe Le Cox

      How you know they (or the russians) never been able to reverse the Tomcat equipment? Do you think they are dumbs and have no good engineers there? what about the Chinesse and Russians?

      • Bez

        Indeed. Iran has many engineers and has kept its Tomcats flying.

  • Style Stylex

    I read in news Russian are desperately looking for Iranian drone technology.

  • roozbeh

    you can see a little part of projects that started in “IRGC” after capturing RQ-170 in the photos of saturday’s exhibition.
    http://sepahnews.com/index.php/component/k2/item/2196-%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D8%AA%D8%B5%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%A2%DB%8C%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%87-%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%86%D9%85%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D8%AC%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%AA%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%BE%D9%87%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%B1%D8%B2%D9%85%DB%8C-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86.html
    ………………………………………..
    after starting RQ-170 cognition and revers engineer project (in iran), the more important projects than RQ & lateral projects was start…projects more valuable than b-2…!!!!
    prepare yourself for more serious surprises In the not too distant future. ;)

  • veej7485

    where did it say it crashed in the desert?

    • Socius

      “This Author still believes that the most likely theory is that the stealth drone, undetected by radar, crash landed in an uninhabited area in the Iranian desert for an unknown failure.”

  • veej7485

    they do know that its not stealthy with exposed weapons right…and they no secure capability to fly the aircraft a far distance/ out of line of sight as they have no satellites.

    • Pepe Le Cox

      you dont need satellites if you intend to flight a drone over your territory, only need comm antennas (like the cell ones) :)

  • SAM

    Delusions of grandeur!!! Yea an aircraft without a vertical stabilizers made out of metal (Aluminum /Titanium alloy ) filled with fuel & a jet engine just glided into Iranian soil!
    Iran showed pictures of the MQ-1, The Shadow, The Raven, US Drone sure like to gliding down into Iranian territory!!!

  • KillerClownfromOuterspace

    So we build a stealth air craft and then attach missiles to it which completely negates the stealth ability.

    • P.Act

      This is exactly what a stealth drone means for those who claimed that they have hacked and hijacked a stealth satellite controlled drone!

  • Masoud

    1. The story about gps spoofing came from a US newspaper, not an Iranian source.
    2. What the hell would a shepherd be doing in the desert? Do you even know what a shepherd’s job is?
    3. How do you know the drone was displayed in SCHOOL’S gymnasium?
    4. I still don’t understand how you can believe the data was still somehow ‘incidentally’ unencrypted. And how the drones internal systems just ‘incidentally’ happened not to self destruct on crashing. And how there was absolutely no damage from the crash. And how quickly the Iranians, who absolutely aren’t advanced enough to build radar systems to detect stealth drones (though they are now producing stealth drones), detected and quickly recovered the on so softly crashing Sentinel(sheperds aimlessly wondering the desert aside). I mean, do you think all those incredible coincidence are unrelated, or that they’re related, but jus that the Iranians couldn’t have had anything to do with them(And why a shepherd, not say, a blacksmith?)
    5. Thank God you and the rest of the western commentators have stopped parting the trope that the Iranians would have to get help from the Russians or the Chinese with this thing, otherwise they may wind up trying to cook it and eating for dinner.

    The Sentinel detected, tracked, hacked, captured, and reproduced: get over it!

    • P.Act

      Any proof?

    • P.Act

      If you are Iranian you might not know your country well enough, that is whay you say this. Because as far as we Iranians know our land people who live in the Iranian deserts have their own animals like Goat and Camel and also Sheep (how do you think they provide themselves with milk and meat, also their tents that is produced with the wool that comes from their Goat and Camel, they also have farms in the middle of the desert. They grow plants like “Saffron” (which is a very expensive food flavour) and even in some desert areas people grow Fig Trees and many other things like Red Pepper and Barberry and make lots of money out of selling their different agricultural products. By desert we don’t mean “Grand Canyon” only! So stop such poor reasoning to reject sth that you are not able to reject in a wise manner!

  • P.Act

    You might not be Iranian, that is whay you say this. Because as far as we Iranians know our land people who live in the Iranian deserts have animals like Goat and Camel and also Sheep, they also have farms in the middle of the desert. They grow plants like “Saffron” (which is a very expensive food flavour) and even in some desert areas people grow Fig Trees and many other things like Red Pepper and Barberry and make lots of money out of selling their different agricultural products. By desert we don’t mean “Grand Canyon” only! So stop such poor reasoning to reject what you are not able to reject in a wise manner