In what may be one of the most grim and serious aviation open houses of all time, the Iranians are now saying they are going to put more drones on display of US and Israeli origin that it has shot down or have crashed over the last half decade or so within their borders. This may be a “I will believe it when I see it” sort of thing, but none-the-less it is widely known that the US has lost drones over Iran before. Although nobody knows if any were as intact or as valueable as the RQ-170 Sentinel, otherwise known as the “The Beast Of Kandahar,” that they displayed last week.
I have talked at length about my belief that the RQ-170’s Skunk Works designers utilized commercially available off the shelf technology as well as rapid prototyping design and construction techniques wherever possible when giving birth to the Sentinel. This may have proven to be the RQ-170’s Achilles heal for one main reason. It is widely known that the US, as well as possibly Israel, have lost multiple drones over Iranian territory in the last half decade or so. If the RQ-170 utilized a common Predator or Reaper drone’s inertial navigation system it may have allowed the Iranians to get a good look at how it works (and they could have had help, I am saving this for a later post, keep your emails coming, I promise I will address it). This would have allowed them to possibly come up with a plan on how to spoof it and jam it (although I still think this is a unprobable scenario) in order to bring it down. This would fit more along the lines of the believers who think that the RQ-170 has similar guts of an MQ-9 Reaper and possibly a similar mission computer and control interface as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, all wrapped in a very “low observable” skin. Further, I have to say that this line of thinking may be somewhat true as it fits with the “expendability” philosophy that some see as a major design factor built into the RQ-170. One last thought, nobody in the public knows if this is the first RQ-170 that has been lost over Iranian territory over the last 5 years or so. There very well could have been others, although most likely they would have met their demise in a much more violent manner and ended up in a less intact state. This could have also helped Iran identify common components between the Sentinel and other, lower tech UAVs it had in its possession. This would obviously greatly help the Iranians in devising a future trap for the Sentinel. Just a thought to consider.