It seems to be drone season here at TechLahore! Right after we wrote about Pakistan’s Burraq UCAV, one of the hottest pieces of news that came out revolved around the downing or “forced landing” of a top secret US drone in Iran. The RQ-170, also known as “The Beast of Kandahar” was only deployed in late 2009 and represents the absolute cutting edge in American reconnaissance and autonomous drone/UAV technology. Early reports about the incident revolved around the debate of whether the drone had in fact been downed, what kind of drone it was, how it was downed and so on. It took several days for the facts to come to light. Initially, the US had declared via ISAF, that a drone “may” have “strayed” into Iran as a consequence of loss of control during a mission over eastern Afghanistan. On the face of it, this was a ridiculous position to take because it wouldn’t make sense for the US to use a stealth drone for missions over Afghanistan, a country over which it has complete airspace control. Following this, a US spokesperson explicitly confirmed that satellite pictures had shown the drone lay utterly destroyed and was hence not going to be useful to the Iranians. Then further tidbits of information started to come out. That in fact the drone was not operated by ISAF, but by the CIA. That in fact it was conducting a spy mission over Iran. And yes, that the drone was in tip-top shape and was, rather unfortunately, the vaunted RQ-170.
All this was rather embarrassing and quite reminscent of the May Day incident in 1960 when Nikita Khruschev’s Soviet Union shot down Francis Gary Powers’ U2 spy-plane. Interestingly, the Soviets held on to the wreckage for a day or so and let the Americans proclaim that the aircraft downed over the USSR was in fact a “weather balloon”. Once the U2 wreckage was shown, President Eisenhower had to back down from this position. But confidence was high in the US that Gary Powers would have either died, or would have taken the poison pill was he supplied with. Neither happened, and three days into the incident, Gary Powers was paraded in Moscow, leading to a very unfortunate situation for the US State Dept. By the way, if you are interested in learning more about the U2 incident, you should read Michael Beschloss’ excellent book on the subject, titled “May Day”. [Read the rest of this entry...]