Iran’s Intelligence Coup

News Brief – December 9, 2011

The RQ-170 is purportedly one of the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, an unmanned surveillance drone designed to fly unseen over enemy territory. Yet Iran claims to have brought down the drone electronically, overriding its programming and blocking commands that should have sent it automatically back to base.
Given that the RQ-170 displayed on Iranian TV (below) was virtually undamaged there is reason to believe that at least it wasn’t shot down.
That being the case Iran has gained a huge prize. Iranian scientists and technicians will now be able to dismantle the vehicle, otherwise known as the Sentinel, and in the process uncover hitherto secret U.S. military technology.
The Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces appeared on Iranian TV Thursday night explaining how his forces had downed America’s most advanced spy plane.
“Recently, our collected intelligence and precise electronic monitoring revealed that this aircraft intended to infiltrate our country’s airspace for spying missions,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said.
“After it entered the Eastern parts of the country, this aircraft fell into the trap of our armed forces and was downed in Iran with minimum damage,” the General continued. 
Apart from being a prize for its scientists and technicians the fact that Iran was able to take control of the RQ-170 indicates that it may be in possession of far more advanced technology than the West had previously believed.
What’s more, given that they will be able to back-engineer the RQ-170 Iran may soon be able to develop even more advanced technology.
Even the BBC noted that this “shows a degree of professionalism about Iran’s armed forces that we didn’t know beforehand”. Although being the BBC they had to add, “of course it’s very important to stress that this is only Iran’s version of how they brought down the drone”. 
The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, a suspected intelligence asset, acknowledged that the loss of the RQ-170 was a “political embarrassment and an intelligence setback for Washington.”
The technology used on the RQ-170 is also used in B2 and F35 planes, two of America’s most advanced manned aircraft. Making the downed RQ-170 a potential treasure trove of “precious technological information”, according to Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh.
“This aircraft is controlled and guided through satellite link and land stations in Afghanistan and the United States,” the general continued.
Defence analysts say there are still only limited numbers of the highly advanced RQ-170 and its use as a sensitive surveillance platform is restricted to the Central Intelligence Agency.
So to have detected and taken control of the RQ-170 suggests that Iran may be a good deal more capable than we’ve been led to believe. It also adds credence to Iranian claims that it is developing its own version of Russia’s formidable air defence system, the S-300.
Meaning that the West underestimates Iran at its peril.

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