Officials Confirm Authenticity of Iranian TV Images Showing Lost U.S. Drone

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Luigi59, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    One official told Fox News on Thursday that the incident is a huge loss and makes the top-secret helicopter tail lost during the Usama bin Laden raid in Pakistan "look like a pittance." The official said there are real fears the Iranians will share this technology with the Russians and the Chinese, in addition to using it themselves.

    The most frightening prospect raised by what appears to be a largely intact Sentinel is that the Iranians’ second claim about how they brought it down -- by hacking into its controls and landing it themselves -- might be true, said a U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on the basis of anonymity because the RQ-170 is part of a Secret Compartmented Intelligence (SCI) program, a classification higher than Top Secret.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-...py-drone-as-u-s-assesses-technology-loss.html
     
  2. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    And right about now the entire avaitor community is smirking and saying: "Thanks for proving our point, and showing the people out there calling for getting rid of us and moving towards an all-unmanned fleet aren't as smart as they thought they were." :thumb:
     
  3. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Actually we should be very alarmed at the (alleged) hacking of a SCI program by a foreign intel group than celebrating any "I told you so" scenario.
     
  4. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Going lost comm has a whole different set of issues for those guys!
     
  5. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Absolutely. My question, based on Iran's tech capabilities, is whether they had help from better hackers....


    As far as manned/unmanned goes, the unmanned folks need only 3 words to make Bullet's argument moot: Francis Gary Powers.

    You can't subject a drone to a kangaroo court. Just sayin'...
     
  6. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    This isn't my area, but I'm curious as to why we are flying super top secret aircraft in an area where it is politically impracticable to either (a) destroy the aircraft if downed, or (b) retrieve the aircraft if downed.
     
  7. pilot2b

    pilot2b Candidate Appointee

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    Circumstances aren't always ideal. And what's the point of having a top secret aircraft if you can't use it in very many locations?

    Oh, and scoutpilot: if Iran has the technology to potentially build a nuclear weapon in the next few years, I'm sure the capability of hacking into a UAV's controls isn't that much more advanced.
     
  8. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    Francis Gary Powers. Bet many had to look that one up:thumb:.
     
  9. 50stars

    50stars Member

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    China and Russia helping Iran against USA? if that's the case that makes China and Russia also our enemies with Iran! this sounds like a loosing battle we are fighting.
     
  10. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    And the aviator would reply to Francis Gary Powers with one word - Stealth :thumb:
     
  11. Contrails

    Contrails Member

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    U-2 was considered invincible on account of operational altitude up until the shoot down, wasn't it? Just as invincible as stealth is...
     
  12. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Never said stealth was "invincible" (as proven by the Night Hawk shoot-down over Kosovo, but the full story on that is not something for discussions on forums such as these). I was simply replying to Scout's misconception that a shootdown from the early 60s has any relevance to the possible reason this aircraft ended up in enemy hands. The U-2 could be SEEN by the Russians, and tracked, they just couldn't DO anything about it (or so we thought up to that day). Stealth solves the first problem. The second problem us that the enemy potentially can now hack a secure network and take control of the aircraft. Having a man in the cockpit solves THAT problem. If this was a manned platform, the Iranians wouldn't be able to have that Kangaroo Court mentioned (or video showing the platform in their hands, in one piece...)
     
  13. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    TPG, you and I both know the argument goes back to one thing: the justification of the budget for one system over another. In this case, it is a back-and-forth I have personally been involved in with certain senior members of the OSD, the Congressional Staff, and a few others who are convinced the era of manned flight is rapidly approaching its end, and funds spent on manned platforms are simply mis-placed. The weal-link in communications vulnerabilities has been brought to their attention, only to be "poo-poo'd" by them as highly unlikely to the point of nearly impossible. The warnings I have provided these Arm-Chair Generals to not put "all their eggs in one basket" were ignored in a very smug manner because they believed they knew better. And I'll say it again, the video from Iran proves they may not be smart as they thought they were.

    I'm just as sure that if the critical Lines of Communication and Commerce in the Polar region were closed this winter due to impassable levels of ice, the previous Polar Star thread would have posts in the same vein....
     
  14. pilot2b

    pilot2b Candidate Appointee

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    China's a somewhat more recent player, but Russia has been helping Iran for years. And that's not even going into all the help that Iraq (under Saddam) and other countries that are unfriendly to the U.S. have received from France and Germany.

    For example, France sold Iraq the Osirik reactor that Israel destroyed in 1981 and also provided technicians for it. Numerous weapons have been found in the hands of terrorists and other enemies supplied by France, Germany, China, and Russia as well.

    If you really want to check into the topic, read the book "Treachery:How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies" by Bill Gertz. Highly recommended, but not before bed. You'll be too mad to sleep.
     
  15. Contrails

    Contrails Member

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    I still don't understand why this is a misconception. I read the relevance as more an indication of how technologies one way or another will eventually be countered and defeated because it is easier to find an crack than be on the other side, patching up every crack. As I understand it, the Powers incident was a lucky shot. F-117 in Kosovo was luck and a radar modification to operate at lower frequencies. Maybe this specific incident could have been avoided with a pilot in the cockpit, but there's always something else that can go wrong: is it logical to discount UAVs because of this one incident?

    I hope I'm not coming across as confrontational or (beyond civilly) argumentative - I apologize if I am. This is a subject that genuinely interests me and I want to understand Bullet's view on this. (and I see your point about budget and eggs all in one basket but then how far should it/is it being taken?)
     
  16. time2

    time2 Member

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    Airplanes, both manned and unmanned can crash for a variety of reasons. Part of the rationale for unmanned aircraft is you don't place the human pilot in harms way to become a prisoner of some hostile government.

    What really happened to this aircraft in Iran will probably be the subject of endless debate and conspiracy theories. If you watched the video from Iranian television, you might have noticed that the underside of the aircraft was concealed by some sort of curtain. It is also possible the aircraft suffered a mechanical/electronic problem while in flight and simply crashed.

    I did like the one article that speculated this was all planned by the US govt and it really is a Trojan horse sent to spy on Iran.

    Hacking into the flight control computer seems more like the stuff of a science fiction movie. Even if they did do that, it would then be necessary to send the appropriate commands to the plane to have it continue to fly normally. Claiming to have taken control of the aircraft certainly has far more propaganda value then saying they found it in the dessert after it crashed due to a mechanical problem.

    It was originally reported that the aircraft was shot down and if that were true, it is highly unlikely you would still see it intact with no visible signs of damage except for the concealed undercarriage.

    What really happened probably won't be revealed publically anytime soon.
     
  17. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    time2,

    Thanks and I echo exactly what you said.
    I wouldn't trust my life on what news reporters say these days. I'd also like to clock the "anonymous" person who thinks it is ok to disclose information to the public in the TS/SCI classification.
     
  18. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    What I see here is a serious systems development flaw, not having communications that have a frequently changing encryption key that only the specific chip will know the sequence for. When it doesn't get the next key in a reasonable amount of time, it either flies home (hardcoded), sends out a beacon, or self-destructs depending upon the theater of operation.

    I think the developers were a bit too confident in their software develpment.
     
  19. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    If anyone is "Shocked" about losing a drone, then they are very naive. Anyone who thinks you can build a drone, airplane ship, etc... and it's guaranteed not to get shot down, malfunction, or captured, is naive. That's like being shocked that soldiers lost their lives in a war. What do people expect?

    Advancing and increasing the technology is great. I'm an electronic engineer with also degrees in computer science. We should definitely learn from this, and try and improve in securing the drones. But eventually, another will go down. To think otherwise is naive. Another hack will come along; mechanical failure might take it down. Enemy defenses might take it down. Whatever. It will happen again. Planes will crash. Men and women will get injured and some will lose their lives. To think otherwise is naive. This is part of the business that we're in.
     
  20. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Contrails, there is nothing wrong with asking the questions you are asking above, as your points are valid. In fact, Scout and TPG do have valid points as well: the powers that be DO consider the potential risks involved in regards to placing a human operator in a high threat environment, and the consequences if "something happens". Also, technologies continually emerge to gain the edge, for and against both sides of the battle, and as CC points out, to expect 100% mission success, regardless of type of platform, is foolish.

    You ask my position on UAVs versus manned platforms. Let me provide you what I can in an open and unsecure forum such as this. I'll start off by saying I've interacted with a lot of senior officials who have sworn to me based on their "expertise" that we should never build a manned fighter or bomber after we finish with the F-35. They continually use the points that UAVs get the job done cheaper, while removing the risk to pilots / aircrew. They've seen the tremendous leaps forward in unmanned platform and weapons technologies, and make the jump that within 20 years, pilots will be obsolete.

    Now, for the environments we currently are in, and for the missions we currently use UAVs to accomplish, the UAV is EXTREMELY well suited to accomplish, and well worth the investment. But, as usual, people tend to forget that the Next war is rarely exactly like the Current war, and what is needed to operate and survive in today's battle may not fit into tomorrow's battle. We call today's battle space a "permissive" environment; simply stated, they are NO threats to our air assets in Afghani and Iraqi air spaces. We can go and operate where we please without threat of being shot down. Now, in places like Iran and a few others, the environment isn't as permissive,thus the need for advanced technologies in our unmanned and manned fleets to survive and operate in those environments. The missions we are using UAVs with advanced technologies for, persistent surveillance and reconnaissance, and strike as required, make a ton of sense and justify the cost and the call to reduce operator risk. Easy missions to do, very little reaction and immediate analysis of the environment required.

    But the best and most encompassing sensor to processor package remains the Mark-I eyeballs tied to the human brain. By a LONG shot when compared to today's technologies. Again simply stated, we are far from achieving technologies that can assess and understand the entire environment and react to it as quickly as the human operator in the more complex environments. And for the more advanced missions, such as strike in a high threat environment, or Close Air Support, or (the most dynamic, fast paced, and demanding of all) Air Interdiction, there isn't a sensor / processor combination even in concept phase at this point that can come close to what is required to replace the pilot / aircrew in the cockpit and still succeed.

    And, that still leaves the vulnerability to the communications connection between the human operators on the ground and the platform. We simply don't have the Artificial Intelligence within the UAVs that would be required to remove that link and still operate and survive in more risky environments. Will we get to that AI level in the future? I'm pretty sure we will, and we'll have the ability to remove the man-in-the-loop, and have aware platforms operating in the battlespace, reacting and engaging as needed. IF WE WANT THAT! There are lot of moral implications to that scenario, removing the man-in-the-loop. Do we want the robot making that call, or do we want a human to confirm that the robot has indeed made the right decision? Besides, we ALL know that if we DO go down that path, SkyNet will just eventually become self-aware and wipe out most of the human race. :wink:

    I can also tell you that unmanned isn't as cheap as people make it out to be. Cheaper than manned flight? Yeah, pretty much, but not by that much a difference as to be a high ranking justification as some make it out to be. You still require a network of logistics and operators on the ground (in much larger numbers than in manned flight) that need to be accounted for. The cost for that support adds up to quite a bit for each flight hour.

    So, what DO I advocate when I talk to these senior officials about manned vs. unmanned? Like I said, don't believe the capabilities of an All-UAV fleet is the be all to end all, because it ain't. But don't underestimate the value of reducing risk, which an UAV provides. BL: don't put all your eggs in one basket. It needs to be a balance of both.

    As to THIS incident? Yeah, for me it is a matter of "I told you so", because I'm firmly entrenched in today's argument as to what tomorrow's air fleet should look like, and this was one of the points I've used, time and again. The security implications today do indeed have me worried, but I am more concerned about mission success tomorrow, and the folks who think they have all the right answers when they've never been involved in the mission before....
     

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