It would appear that the CIA cannot recreate the incident that doomed the RQ-170 Sentinel that was patrolling high over the skies of Iran late last November. Apparently the Sentinel’s three separate data streams all began sending back erroneous information to its operators, an unlikely event that may have accidentally caused it’s handlers to instruct it to land. This may have happened due too a last ditch effort by a secondary operator back at it’s Afghanistan base (some say Kandahar, but many signs are pointing to Shindand AB in western Afghanistan, a notorious CIA hub) to establish a line-of-sight terminal control of the stricken craft. Direct line-of-sight control is a more robust communication technique than satellite data-link and is commonly used for the launch and recovery of deployed drones before and after their control gets “handed off” to the craft’s mission operators who direct the craft via low-probability-of intercept satellite data-link during it’s actual mission.
Making matters worse, it seems that under these circumstances, when the drone’s transmitted info goes totally corrupted, automated software on the aircraft may not have immediately scrubbed its data banks of highly sensitive material, as is apparently standard operating procedure. In which case the drone would have landed with it’s computer banks stuffed full of recorded data and operating software. In other words it may have been akin to the Iranians, or Chinese, or Russians, literally examining the machine as it sat on the ramp back at Tonopah, intact and operational. Although this is a speculative “worst case scenario” it would appear that this is a likely possibility now on the table. If this is true, it has the potential to render all US drones, their communications infrastructure and command protocol, incredibly vulnerable, akin to giving the enemy the keys to America’s unmanned castle.
I do find it odd that the even through the CIA does not understand what caused not just the primary communications malfunction, but also the Sentinel’s apparent attempt at a soft landing, than why is it totally out of the question that a foreign actor did not have something to do with it? It seems that there has been no explanation as to why this is totally impossible, although it may be highly improbable.
Assuming China is dissecting the aircraft as we speak, this could be one of the largest compromisations of sensitive American military hardware ever, and will most likely give the Chinese the “missing links” they are actively pursuing regarding their own high priority drone programs.
For more on how the RQ-170 loss could give China a massive boost in counter American Naval capabilities please click the link below:
For all of my ongoing coverage on the RQ-170 incident pull down the “Categories and Hot Topics” menu to your right and click “Iranian RQ-170 Incident.”
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