Several news stories are floating around about the alledged downing of a US RQ-170 stealth drone in Iran. According to the Washington Post, Iran claimed that they not only had a largely undamaged state of the art US stealth drone, but that it was taken over and brought down by Iran’s Cyber Warfare unit.
The RQ-170 Sentinel (artists rendition above) is really a pretty interesting aerial platform. Although most of the specs have not been released, the “flying wing” unmanned stealth drone most likely carries a mixture of electronic sensors, communication and video equipment for use in reconnaissance and electronic warfare. At least one was probably used to record images and monitor Pakistani communications during the Navy SEAL’s raid on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout.
I have mentioned before about drones being affected by the IED jammers used on US military ground vehicles, but did Iran’s “cyber army” really bring one down? And could it be tied to the recent malware infection of drone mission support systems at Creech Air Force Base?
According to the Wall Street Journal, a statement released by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force earlier today states that Iran may be referring to a drone that they lost communication with late last week, that most likely developed a mechanical issue:
“U.S. and NATO officials wouldn’t say what kind of American drone had disappeared, but U.S. officials said there was no indication that the aircraft had been shot down by the Iranians. One American official said the drone likely suffered from a mechanical failure.”
Apparently Iran has claimed to have shot down drones before, but no evidence has ever been brought forth and US has denied that they have lost drones to Iran in the past. So far in this instance, the only “evidence” that Iran has produced is a stock photo of an RQ-170.
Time will tell, but with all the news about mystery explosions in Iran, maybe Stuxnet and its variants aren’t the only active threats to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.