This story gets stranger and stranger. The facts are few and far between. The US maintains that they did indeed lose control of a drone aircraft on surveillance mission over Afghanistan. In Pentagon speak, it was unfortunate, but really no big deal. No lives were lost, it was akin to a radio control plane enthusiast slamming his RC plane into a wall. Sure, it it is pain in the wallet, but oh well.

A number of news agencies however, reported that this particular craft was a bit of a step up from the regular fare found in your local Hobby Shop. It was in fact a stealth drone known as theRQ-170 Sentinel.

While not a household name. a few grainy photo’s were published:

rq-170-drone.jpg

Indeed it does look like a rather stealthy beast of the sky.

Iran meanwhile had been shouting from the roof tops that the drone had been ‘downed’ in Iranian airspace.

Of course it is often difficult to understand the nuances of meaning when translating from one language to another. But the word ‘downed’ seemed to indicate crashed or shot down.

The BBC however are saying that this is not the case. Iranian TV are showing video of a very intact drone. Iran is also claiming that it did not crash, but that they took over control of the drone and landed it.

The story and video is here.

If this story has any truth to it, it represents a huge problem for the use of drones and other remote control devices on the modern battlefield.

It also presents a problem for the US stealth technology. While Iran might not be in a position to reverse engineer the technology, they could certainly use use this as a very big bargaining chip with China, or another country.

The larger question remains, is it real, or is it Memorex? Is this just a great piece of propaganda, or a real problem? Only time will tell.

Simon Barrett

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