CIA Drone Downed in Iran May Not Hold Many Tech Secrets
Iranian news sources reported over the weekend that the government had recovered an American unmanned aircraft. Sources within the U.S. government have since confirmed that the craft was an intelligence drone that had been lost in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
"The UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week," NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement after news of the drone's capture was reported. "The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status."
Exactly what happened to the drone has been disputed. Iranian media sources were initially quoted as saying the drone had been shot down, while others have speculated that its computer guidance software was hacked.
NATO indicated in its statement that the aircraft had simply experienced a technical malfunction.
"The [drone] is advanced enough to pull off some risky spy missions for the military and CIA, but not so advanced that losing one is a national emergency," David Axe wrote on Wired's Danger Room blog. "The Iranians might not learn much — just as the Chinese stand to gain little from examining the remains of a stealthy U.S. helicopter lost during the Bin Laden raid. The principles of stealth shaping are well-understood worldwide, and any stealth coating on the Sentinel reflects decade-old technology."
The stealth, unmanned drone is reported to be the same type of RQ-170 that was used to survey Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound before U.S. forces raided it and killed the al Qaeda leader, according to the Associated Press.
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