Iran shows off captured RQ-170 Sentinel drone

After it became known a few days ago that Iran had captured a CIA RQ-170 surveillance drone, this was the assessment of one of Washington’s most frequently quoted defense technology experts:

Loren Thompson

“[W]hat the Iranians have is a pile of wreckage — many small and damaged pieces from which they could glean little in the way of technological insights,” said Loren Thompson, defense policy analyst for the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this week.

Even now that Iran has released video of the captured drone, the Los Angeles Times isn’t ready to assert that it’s the real thing. “Iran shows off alleged captured U.S. drone,” (my emphasis) says their headline.

Alleged? I think it’s already fair to assume that this is the real thing — and we’re getting a much closer view of it than the CIA ever wished.

U.S. officials (and journalists dutifully repeating what they have been told) have insisted that this unmanned aircraft “crashed”.

All I can say is this: however this thing came down it had a pretty soft landing. It doesn’t look like it was shot down — as Iran originally claimed. But neither does it look like it completely lost control.

Did it gently glide down onto the perfectly smooth surface of a conveniently located dry salt lake? Maybe. Or — even though all the experts insist this is highly improbable — did the Iranians somehow manage to conduct a remote hijacking?

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3 thoughts on “Iran shows off captured RQ-170 Sentinel drone

  1. Colm O' Toole

    Well you have also got to take into account that Hezbollah last month downed an Israeli drone over Lebanon under similar circumstances (and Hezbollah and Iran work closely together). I would say it was electronic warfare that brought it down.

    Moon of Alambama’s blog has been talking about some of the technical details needed to take down a drone (the only real challenge is breaking the encryption used on the data link) but since the US has been active for 10 years in Afghanistan any neighbouring country would have plenty of time to monitor and crack the encryptions.

    Also on the pure speculation front is China. Everyone knows China probably has the best cyber-warfare capabilities of any military. Maybe the Chinese showed the Iranians how to do it in exchange for the stealth technology on the drone being handed over to them? Iran gets to keep the components of the drone technology for their domestic drone programme and China gets the stealth technology for their own stealth programme.

  2. essential-intelligence

    Let’s examine how could the encrypted satellite radio link of the RQ-170 be compromised then. This effort must have required the installation of malware within the complex avionics of the RQ-170, a process which must include human intervention, most likely on American soil.
    There’s every reason to assume it was Chinese capacity force landing the American RQ-170 in Iran.

    Full analysis here:

  3. Norman

    Let us not discount the Israeli connection on how the Iranians acquired the code[s]. Whether by the Israeli company dealing directly with Iran, or through the Chinese, which the Israelis are doing also.

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