Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How do you say Merry Christmas in Chinese?

Iran is asserting that it has shot down a stealthy U.S. intelligence drone.  Tehran has made similar announcements in the past, but this time U.S. officials are confirming the incident off the record. 

What seems to have happened, at least according to those who will speak to reporters, is that an RQ-170 Sentinel Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) lost connection to its controllers, 'strayed' into Iranian airspace,  then landed in accordance with its programming.


Hold on, let me read that again:

According to a senior U.S. military source with intimate knowledge of the Sentinel drone, the aircraft likely "wandered" into Iranian air space after losing contact with its handlers and is presumed to be intact since it is programmed to fly level and find a place to land, rather than crashing.
Yep, that's what it said.  OK, deep breath.

Are you freaking kidding me?  You have an aircraft that you haven't officially released even a picture of, which apparently is built to be less visible to radar, and you program it to find somewhere nice and flat to land rather than crash in unfriendly territory when it can't phone home?

I'm not going to divulge anything about my past, but I think it's probably public knowledge that it's old technology to have a set of coordinates programmed into the control software of a UAV that is its failsafe point to return to when it loses its control link.  Heck, anyone who flies expensive model planes can tell you the same thing.  Why in the name of all this holy would you program a surveillance platform to fly a steady track and find somewhere to land rather than give it a return coordinate or have it assume a vertical flight pattern and gun the engines so that all that is available for collection and exploitation is scraps.

Iran hates our guts, and they know who in the international community is shielding them, Russia and China.  Anyone want to bet on the possibility that this little lost airplane, along with all of its surveillance, communications, and cryptologic equipment, is in a shipping crate on its way to either Beijing or Moscow?

I hope that whoever made the decision that it's better for a drone to find a place to land than it is for it to return to some arbitrary place for recovery or destroy itself is pilloried.  Since in the event of any conflict between China and the U.S. UAV's will be the first wave of aircraft to go in for air defense suppression and intelligence gathering, this is a kick to the gut for our abilities.  We just put a bow on one of our most advanced technologies and shipped it to the Chinese. 

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head.


Drang said...

I'd like to believe that there's some sort of disinformation plan involved...

Someone watched Independence Day and thought this would be a good way to infect the Iranian and ChiCom computers with some sort of virus.

Unfortunately, this is the same administration that thought that giving guns to Mexican drug gangs, and laundering their money, was a good idea, too...

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"[I]t is programmed to fly level and find a place to land, rather than crashing."







I remember a time, not too long ago, that anything like this drone - so top secret that no photos whatsoever have been released by the .gov - would have been equipped with a brick's worth of C-4, strategically distributed so as to make any useful salvage impossible, and programmed so that if it lost contact and was unable to return to a predesignated and secure recovery point it would automatically self destruct to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

Why is this not still done?

Lazy Bike Commuter said...

Yes, the C4 thing sounds like what I would think is a good idea.

But what do I know, I'm not in charge.

Rauðbjorn said...

That's pronounced "shèng dàn kuài lè"

Pilloried? How about shot for treason. I could see it if it were to fly back to a friendly area and land, but to just land ANYWHERE?

I have no words to describe the level of stupid encountered here. A facepalm is not enough, hell, a double facepalm is not enough. I don't think a tapioca facepalm would be enough even.

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