Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel

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

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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Iran releases first (somehow suspicious) video of its RQ-170 stealth drone copy in flight

Eventually, a video allegedly showing the copy of Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) drone manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011 was released.

On Nov. 10, 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.

“The footage of its flight will be released soon,” he told reporters.

Eventually, a video showing the copy of the Sentinel flying somewhere over Iran, filmed both from the ground and from an accompanying helicopter has been released.

The footage of the flying drone looks genuine; what seems to be a bit weird is the sequence of the RQ-170 landing on the runway: more than a UAV, the aircraft moves and reacts to the remote pilot’s input as a small remotely piloted scale model….

Since the first prototype was a smaller copy of the Sentinel (60% the size of the original RQ-170) which flew about four months ago, one might wonder whether the landing drone depicted in the footage is not the full scale replica but the smaller original prototype.

Furthermore, some frames of the landing video seem to be computer generated.

Judge by yourself at min 06:49.

H/T to Soufiane Nourredine for the heads-up

 

Iran has flown its version of the captured U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone modified to bomb US Navy warships

Although footage has yet to be released, Tehran claims a domestically modified RQ-170 Sentinel has already made its maiden flight.

Update Nov. 12, 2014: a video has been released. Click here.

On May 11, Iran unveiled a copy of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) drone allegedly manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011. The Iranian version of the Sentinel drone was displayed next to the one that crash landed in northeastern Iran about three years ago for reasons that are still unknown.

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 managed to retrieve something from the once secret drone’s 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.

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

“The footage of its flight will be released soon,” Hajizadeh told reporters according to FARS News.

Whereas the first prototype was a smaller copy of the Sentinel (60% the size of the original RQ-170) which flew about four months ago, the final model is a full-scale, reverse-engineered stealthy drone, equipped with special parts required to carry bombs. Weapons to be used “against the US warships in any possible showdown between the two countries.

According to the Iranians the American drone was brought down by the Iranian Armed Forces’ electronic warfare unit which hacked into the RQ-170 remote control systems and ordered the aircraft to land in the eastern part of the country.

Even though such claims are still debated, especially in the light of other alleged achievements by Tehran (as the infamous F-313 Qaher stealth fighter jet), Iran has really showcased some almost intact UAV types in the recent past: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

Anyway, while there are chances that the engine, circuitry, lenses, memories and sensors that survived the crash landing of the CIA-operated RQ-170 might have been evaluated, tested, copied and, possibly, improved with the help of Russia and China, it’s hard to believe such hardware and remaining data have allowed Iran to move as much as 35 years ahead in building drones or their components.  Especially if we consider that, unlike the X-47B and some black UAV projects like the RQ-180, the RQ-170 is no longer the American cutting edge robot tech.

Image credit: Tasmin News

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Image credit: Cassidian

 

 

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