« On the wrong side of the tipping point | Main | ‘Tis the politically directed shopping season »

11 December 2011


Russ Steele

For those who have not seen the capture RQ-170 here is a link to some high-resolution photos: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/high-rez-pics-stealth-drone/?pid=1026

I agree with George, how hard would it be to program the RQ-170 to determine the recovery mode based on position. When over enemy territory, and loss of communications and control for x minutes, execute a dive maneuver. When over neutral territory, go into soft landing mode. That cannot be too hard to do. So, the question way was it not done.

There are other options. Could it be, that this was a ruse, a drone filled with some fake parts, computer programs we wanted them to find. The CIA has used these tactics before, why not now? A distraction, a head-fake to mislead the enemy of our capability. Just wondering. Having been in the intelligence community, nothing is ever really what it seems to be.

George Rebane

Russ, I doubt the efficacy of the "head-fake" because the Iranians will expose the technology to Russian and Chinese experts who will quickly discover any ruse.

Todd Juvinall

Did Bill Clinton deliver the drone personally? Remember he sold our tech to the Chi-come for campaign cash.

bill tozer

As far as Attorney General Holder goes, the question is rather simple. Who authorized Fast and Furious? No very complicated. With 600,000 employees in the Justice Department, someone there with an average IQ should be able to answer at least one question. Attorney General Holder was asked that question in February by the Senate Select committee via written questions. In December Eric Holder appeared before the House committee that oversees the Justice Department and the committee asked and failed to receive an answer to that questions despite giving Holder the written question in advance to prepare himself. AG Holder wisely did not testify under oath. AG Holder said something about not being obligated to answer such questions to his overseers, yet failed to site any specific constitutional grounds. So, after 10 months of unanswered queries, I am left to ponder two more questions: What does Eric Holder know and does Eric Holder know what he knows?

D. King

You don't really think a rouge department head decided to allow guns to cross international borders without the knowledge of the executive branch / state department; do you?


“You screwed up, you ought to admit you screwed up, but you ought not to use your screw-up as the basis for trying to extend your authority,” Lungren said. “That’s my point, I’m not trying to talk about a conspiracy — I’m talking about a responsible action after the fact. When you screw up, you ought to say you screwed up. The people involved ought to say they screwed up, and don’t allow the screw-up as a basis to extend your legislative agenda.”


Ho hum; dumb diddy dumb........ dumb!


D. King

rogue! :)

Dixon Cruickshank

We have self destruct on missles that go off course so I am also baffled?? Too much tech available with it intact no matter what fake software it has.

Holder is stalling and pretecting Obama, they both knew, this riddle will not be solved until people are under oath #1 and a I think a Special Prosicutor has more powers. He's hoping he can stall long enough to get by the election, if they lose who cares their gone. If they win their still in power for 4 yrs and impechment is a tough bridge and they'll cross it when they get there.

Michael Anderson

"Could it be, that this was a ruse, a drone filled with some fake parts, computer programs we wanted them to find?"

Yeah, I like Russ' analysis the best.

It cracks me up that people are surprised that drones are flying over Iran. Duh, and hello.

George Rebane

MichaelA 841pm - where pray are you still finding people who are "surprised that drones are flying over Iran."?

RL Crabb

I'm surprised that you all haven't accused Obama of personally directing the spy drone to Iran with his model airplane command module. The obvious answer is the squirrels got tired of pedaling for peanuts.

And I notice that there is very little discussion of the ongoing parade of the lamebrained potential GOP candidates for Prez. In my travels among the hoi polloi during Christmas shopping, most Repubbys I meet are depressed about their chances to storm the battlements at 1600 Pennsylvania, especially if Newt is the people's choice.

George Rebane

BobRL 245pm - are "lamebrains" you are referring to the ones being compared to the genius currently in the White House? I'm trying to find one of them as demonstrably incompetent as our Chief Community Organizer. But then again, that may only be my shortcoming.

Russ Steele

Let's not forget the X-37 B mini-remote controlled space shuttle. One possible mission could be "Rods from God" This was one of the guessed at mission in a Wired article:

3. Dropping "Rods from God" on enemy targets
Such a reusable space plane offers the U.S. "unheard-of" potential for quick, surprise launches, says Space.com. It could be fitted with a "weapon to drop tungsten rods," nicknamed "Rods from God," on targets back on earth. The Chinese military apparently fears this scenario, adds the Los Angeles Times. Chinese professor Li Daguang wrote that the X-37B would soon be "capable of taking military actions" against the enemies of the U.S.

If I recall the X-37B was due back from a mission and it got extended. Wonder if it had any thing to do with mysterious explosions in Iran? Have some detailed target coordinates from some low flying stealth drones might come in handy for targeting those Rods from God.

George Rebane

Do we note that there is a desire to change the subject here on the RQ-170 by bringing up ridiculous hyperbole assertions about what Obama is accused of? The only serious question being asked about our Chief Executive by well-read people around the world is 'why did he refuse to recover or destroy the UAV while he still could?' The given reason of making Iran more mad is a bit on the childish side given the destruction that has already been wreaked on the Iranian nuclear development facilities and personnel.

Stratfor is even shaking its institutional head at some lame release that we don't fly UAVs over Iran, and that this was a drone that somehow accidentally strayed into Iranian airspace from Afghanistan. Now only the news staff at MSNBC would believe a cover story like that.

Todd Juvinall

A lesson in how to give up our secrets without being caught intentionally giving up our secrets.

Douglas Keachie

Perhaps the USA wanted Iran to know just how detailed the information is that we are gathering. My guess would be the the cameras on this thing, in a low swoop, could give images of individual's faces for recognition, and might well have the coordinates programmed into it for every already known entrance to their nuke facilities, so as to let them know that we know.

Other than that, I would agree that sheer stupidity and hubris somewhere in the budget/design/command chain dumped this invaluable piece of equipment in their hands, or, somebody's spies (cyberspies?, old fashioned sex entrapment spies?) are so good they knew the secret secret override codes and commands to get the thing safely on the ground in one piece, before the controller in the Afghanistan/USA could stop it?

Did you notice the Danish Style cookies in CVS, are made in China, and sold at what has to be a loss, four oz for 99 cents in a pretty tin? Wonder how much that will cost the Danish economy, and if Iran asked China for a favor or two in return for providing a landing field, and this was one of them?

George Rebane

DougK 858am - You pointed out what I hesitated to contemplate, that Iran had the ability to crack our secure telemetry UAV control code. That kind of a breach is unthinkable, and if true, would point directly to Russian and/or Chinese involvement in the downing. Iran does not have the capability to do that kind of work. Nevertheless, your point is well taken. The proof in the pudding is the UAV's landing site - if it was a prepared strip or airport, then we're in trouble.

Douglas Keachie

About the only quick way to get large scale directional two way secure communication for the military quickly would be for the USA to nationalize the Wildblue and Hughesnet satellites, as their beams are pretty directional towards selected areas of the continental USA. Howard would approve.

Douglas Keachie

Other possible way to bring down drone. Insert timed release fuel weakening capsules into the fuel tank, or make the drone think (via software readings of sensors) it is giving too much fuel to the engines, 30 minutes into the flight.

Russ Steele

Cheney: Why didn’t Obama just destroy the drone when he had the chance?

Details at Hot Air:
That’s a good question — and according to former VP Dick Cheney’s contacts, Barack Obama didn’t lack for options to keep the highly-classified drone from falling into the Iranian military’s hands. In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Cheney wonders why Obama didn’t order an air strike on the downed aircraft while he still had the chance:

See the Video HERE.

Russ Steele

You bring up a point that has been troubling me. The RQ-170 was designed to land on prepare runways and airstrips. How did it come down so in tact. Any rough surface would cause it to nose over and as you can see form the pictures no nose damage. I am still not convinced this was some accident. Nothing is what it seems to be in the world of intelligence. Why the hesitation to destroy the drone, Obama had three options on his desk. Why were they all refused? There is more to this story than we are seeing. Boeing claims it has tamper proof software. Lets hope it does. But, then again why did it go into safe mode and land with out a scratch? Where did it land? On what?

Russ Steele

Anyone remember this story back in October? http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/virus-hits-drone-fleet/

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America’s Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military’s Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech’s computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military’s most important weapons system.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”


In the meantime, technicians at Creech are trying to get the virus off the GCS machines. It has not been easy. At first, they followed removal instructions posted on the website of the Kaspersky security firm. “But the virus kept coming back,” a source familiar with the infection says. Eventually, the technicians had to use a software tool called BCWipe to completely erase the GCS’ internal hard drives. “That meant rebuilding them from scratch” — a time-consuming effort.

Could it be that the CIA did not get the memo, your drone has been hacked.

Douglas Keachie

Oh My God!

I'll bet the Iranians had their best model builders at the ready, and the original was whisked away so fast you wouldn't believe it, and all the current images are from a full sized model of the drone.

George Rebane

DougK 203pm - do I detect a dismissive attitude toward the whole matter?

Douglas Keachie

Au contrare! This country's got a blunder on it's hands that will take every Mormon/evangelical/leftwing econut to fix by pulling together if Steele is right, and two years ago would not have been soon enough to start! of course what will happen instead is the rowers on the right will begin chanting "It's Obama's fault," instead of getting their oars up and running, and the left side will be too busy occupying everything to notice the Chinese army right in along side them. Damn I hope this is/was an intentional head fake...

Greg Goodknight

Keachie can spin delusions faster than any sane person can debunk them. Save your energy; in his world fact and fantasy are as one.

Douglas Keachie

So greg, did they photoshop that commpletely unhurt craft in =to Iran, and the real thing is a smoldering ruin?

Greg Goodknight

GeorgeR 3:34, see what I mean?

Douglas Keachie

No we don't see what you mean. Just how do you explain the photograph of the drone, Greg Goodknight? You know a few things about aircraft when they come down unexpectedly, so you should have an opinion, as to how hard a landing this craft had, and possible reasons for the unapparent unscathed appearance of the ship.

Greg Goodknight

I'm quite sure the intended "we" did.

Douglas Keachie

I'm not getting into an aviation fuel pissing contest with you Greg. How do you explain the photos? BTW George, you seem to have been hacked a bit, lots of comments on older posts written by nonesense syllables.

Greg Goodknight

Only if I am under contract can someone demand an answer from me. Will that be cash or PayPal?

Russ Steele

Christan Science Monitor Exclusive: Iran hijacked US drone, says Iranian engineer

In an exclusive interview, an engineer working to unlock the secrets of the captured RQ-170 Sentinel says they exploited a known vulnerability and tricked the US drone into landing in Iran.

Iran guided the CIA's "lost" stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military, according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone's systems inside Iran.

Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety.

Using knowledge gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.

"The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the Iranian engineer told the Monitor, giving the most detailed description yet published of Iran's "electronic ambush" of the highly classified US drone. "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain."
I spent an hour looking at Iran on Google Earth, and there are not very many smooth places where the drone could land on it's own and not be damaged. if the above is true, then we now know why there was so little damage to the RQ-170.

The comments to this entry are closed.