The deadly game the U.S. and Israel are playing with Iran continued today with news that a U.S. advanced technology stealth drone had fallen or been downed (depending on who you talk to) inside Iran. The Iranians claim the vehicle was the U.S.’ most advanced Sentinel stealth drone also known as the Beast of Kandahar. This plane was likely unarmed and had a solely surveillance mission. The U.S. is not only interested in spying on Iran’s nuclear program, it is seeking proof of the extent of the damage in Isfahan to the uranium enrichment plant there from an explosion last week. Since the Beast was used to surveill Osama bin Laden’s compound in the week’s before his assassination, the craft might also be tracking individuals or spying on military/government compounds as well.
The U.S. says the drone had a malfunction and that operators lost contact with it, which caused it to enter into Iranian airspace and crash. The Iranian claim that it shot down the plane seems contradicted by the accompanying claim that there was little damage to the craft that was recovered. Whatever the truth of the story, the Iranians may now have access to a fairly complete version of the most advanced aerial surveillance technology in the U.S. arsenal. As the NY Times notes, negotiations are probably underway as we speak with Russian or Chinese representatives who would be dying to have a crack at it so that they can steal the technology and incorporate it into their own designs. Not to mention they will be able to develop systems to counter the drone and its capabilities. So if Hezbollah can’t now bring the plane down, it may be able to shortly.
Bloggers on the left, some of whom have been taking potshots at me as a dupe of Israeli intelligence for my reporting on Israeli acts of sabotage against Iran and Hezbollah, have claimed that the Iranians may’ve discovered ways to jam ground communications with the drones, thus enabling them to cause them to crash. Hezbollah has also leaked such stories to the Lebanese press attempting to explain an Israeli drone that crashed a few weeks ago in southern Lebanon. The theory might be that if Iran has developed such technology it may’ve shared it with Hezbollah. The only problem is that Hezbollah has not taken credit for downing the Israeli drone and Iran doesn’t say it jammed the U.S. drone, but that it shot it down.
I’m doubtful that Iran shot the Sentinel down for the reason I mentioned above, and as it has made similar claims regularly over the past few years which the U.S. has disputed. If the Iranians have figured out how to fool the drone’s communications systems I still haven’t seen any evidence of it. But I remain open to the possibility if anyone can offer any.
Actually, Richard, for those of us who can’t help but to connect the dots:
“Air Force Insists: Drone Cockpit Virus Just a ‘Nuisance’”
Guess what? The Iranians caught the bogey in their airspace and they TOOK OVER ITS CONTROLS AND LANDED IT. That is the most plausible explanation. I believe the virus was the precedent that even DARPA could not figure out.
You see, in every country there exists a group of individuals who are literally so adept with computers that they far exceed any assets government can ever acquire, and at a young age. Now, imagine if the people in that country banded together under a legitimate foreign threat like Israel? Imagine if “Anonymous” were aligned with our government under an ACTUAL common threat? Like AIPAC and the hijacking of our government and currency during the Woodrow Wilson administration to the present day. Or the internal enemies who sold our national interests for a few silver, like Cheney. This is who the Iranians are across the board. 99.99% of Iranians would rather live 100 years under this government than allow a foreign power to again meddle in their affairs. This is the bitter pill that the warmongers won’t swallow.
And now the US wants to coax Iran into showing footage of the intact drone to confirm that its valuable intelligence has been effectively stolen. If I was Iran, I would not show my hand. I would let the warmongers assume the worst rather than confirm the best, if damaged.
I think the final mistake will the Iran war. I hope they make it. I’m tired of waxing poetic about how they are bluffing.
Now, I’m calling them chicken to their face. Bawk bawk. Attack, if you’re men. Otherwise, it’s clear: Iran is the regional hegemon in the Middle East. Israeli dominance is officially over. PUT UP, OR STFU.
PS – also, imagine if an Iranian drone were caught in America? We’d be wringing our panties at the UN about territorial sovereignty and a justified attack on Iran.
Is Iran justified to encroach on our borders now? I think that’s the narrative the Reuters-AP lie foundation press agencies have been pushing to try to open an avenue towards causus belli. Technically, I am not sure – I will have to check many international instances and laws to see what the likely course of events will be. But, I doubt Iran would even allow the US such positioning to potentially create an opening for war with Iran. This was a win-win for them.
I think it’s time for the Iranian government to act like a screaming banshee with her eyes plucked out like Israel does for it’s one POW tank soldier who was caught on duty, or for America asking them to stop illegal settlement building.
Hell, imagine if a Palestinian youth threw a paper plane towards Israel?
I now Fox News isn’t the most reputable of sources to put it mildly but here it goes:
“Iran is in possession of a RQ-170 Sentinel drone that went missing over the Islamic Republic, U.S. military sources told Fox News on Monday.”
Kern de Gaud says
If Iran has developed a capability to jam or spoof our drone navigation control systems, they certainly won’t advertise it lest we make efforts to better encrypt it. If that is the case, it is obvious they would prefer us to believe that they shot it down or that it suffered a genuine fault.
… or encrypt it at all. The Israelis used to not bother encrypting their drones’ camera takes and Hezbollah routinely ripped it, giving their own intel people a look at exactly what the Israelis were looking at in Lebanon. Hez finally let the cat out of the bag, under massive political pressure from the Hariri investigation, when they released footage of Israeli drones surveilling Hariri’s route. The release neither proved Hez’s innocence nor Israeli culpability, but it did shed significant, if not terminal, doubt on the entire proceedings.
True, but I think this is part of the calculus. Showing the potential invader that their most stealth reconnaissance craft was not shot down, but in a sophisticated manner that would literally mean that Iranian technicians outdid our BEST, DARPA (if anyone has UFOs, they do), and also in a manner that allowed them acquire vital components and know-how.
The drones were never created under the frame of mind that they could be hacked electronically and all means of self-destruction turned off during the incommunicado.
To the potential invader, it says: look at what we can do to your “awesome” technology. We’re not Saddam Hussein or Iraq. We have brains and we use them. And we’re capable of defending ourselves.
Here’s the other thing, the hacking itself created a circumstance by which any attempt to reconfigure the drones may very well be observed by Iran through surveillance. So mitigation steps would be futile.
Realistically, Iran may have just completely bashed a REALLY expensive Lockheed Martin SkunkWorks project and totally took us out of the drone warfare state-of-the-art with one move/one drone.
The Iranian story reminds me of a 2009 report in The Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126102247889095011.html where we learned that “militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.”
Read that again and try not to fall over laughing! A multibillion dollar marauding beast done in by ready-to-use spy kit sold by a Russian firm, no less!
While the “potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control” and was known by “full-spectrum dominance” corporate bagmen, um, military “planners” since 1999, they did nothing.
But it gets better. “The stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies.”
Why didn’t the Pentagon force their suppliers, General Atomics, Inc. to fix the problem? “Because military officials have long assumed no one would make the effort to try to intercept it.”
There it is, good old imperial hubris!
Several possibilities: 1) The Iranians may not have shot down the RQ-170 Sentinel but “merely” recovered it when it flew off-course and crashed. 2) They did shoot it down, but then why play coy and say they recovered it intact? 3) Their electronic warfare capabilities may be more advanced than the imperialists believe, but they would have had to have (presumably) cracked the Sentinel’s encryption; not impossible, just real difficult.
In any event, even if they recovered it in pieces, it would cough up many design and avionics secrets which a multitude of interested parties, including the Iranians, would love to get their hands on.
“Net-centric warfare” at its best!
You can read a send-up I wrote on the 2009 video-feed story over at Antifascist Calling: http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.com/2009/12/hackable-drones-crumbling-empire.html
Not sure if this is in your realm of expertise, but would the virus I mentioned and linked to above affecting drones serve as a proper gateway to bypassing or surpassing encryption?
I’m not surprised that they did not fix their software development security loophole — I know many software engineers who work for Lockheed, BASF, Honeywell.. and trust me, they weren’t at the top of their classes. Some of them don’t even know what a Windows registry is. 9 year olds in Estonia can shut off entire power grids and cellular antenna assays.
Sorry, Persian Advocate, that’s way beyond my skill set. Wired Magazine’s Threat Level blog http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/virus-hits-drone-fleet/ did a series about the mysterious virus in Predator and Reaper drones in October. According to Wired, the malware logged “pilots’ every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.” Here’s the kicker, military spokespeople told Wired, “We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” and they’re not sure whether it was introduced accidentally or on purpose. Talk about bad “op sec”!
Down with U.S.A (gov)
We (Iranian people) standing until the end.
A Persian(iranian) boy