Monday, December 05, 2011
Iran Receives an Early Christmas Present from the US, a Stealthy RQ-170
The US Air Force lost a top secret RQ-170 SENTINEL over Iran, not that long after a secret stealth helicopter was lost. That should be very helpful to Iran, China and Russia. From previous reports, we learn that two of these same RQ-170s were used to get bin Laden.
The RQ-170 is a low observable unmanned aircraft system (UAS) being developed, tested and fielded by the Air Force. It will provide reconnaissance and surveillance in support of the joint forces commander.
The Air Force's RQ-170 program leverages the Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs and government efforts to rapidly develop and produce a low observable UAS. The RQ-170 will directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets.
The RQ-170 is flown by Air Combat Command's 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nev.
U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge that the stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone was used to provide ISR support for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.
The Sentinel did several key variety of tasks during the raid such as providing real-time imagery of the compound to the President and other authorities in DC to monitoring Pakistani military communications, all while orbiting overhead undetected, according to the Washington Post.
It could also have jammed Pakistani radars and beamed its footage of the compound to the SEALs in their inbound choppers.
Intelligence officials acknowledge that the CIA used the Air Force’s RQ-170 in Pakistan for months to monitor bin Laden’s house which lies within Pakistan’s air defense intercept zone that surrounds the capitol city of Islamabad.
The aircraft allowed the CIA to glide undetected beyond the boundaries that Pakistan has long imposed on other U.S. drones, including the Predators and Reapers that routinely carry out strikes against militants near the border with Afghanistan.
All this paints a picture of a raid that was indeed carried out without Pakistani knowledge (or, to give Islamabad plausible deniability with regard to the raid, for you skeptics). The remaining question is; were there really only two stealth helos used in the operation? Why use a stealth drone and two stealth helicopters and then send in two-to-three MH-47s that can be detected by radar deep into Pakistan to retrieve the SEALs and collect evidence? How did they do that without being detected?