Always heartwarming to see how war is used as a laboratory for testing and deploying new technology of domination, plus note the spying issue, the enemy in Afghanistan do not possess good -if any- radar, so what are stealth drones for if not to test and spy on other bordering nations.
The US Air Force on Tuesday confirmed for the first time that it is flying a stealth unmanned aircraft known as the “Beast of Kandahar,” a drone spotted in photos and shrouded in secrecy.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is designed “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces,” the air force said in a brief statement.
The “RQ” prefix for the aircraft indicates an unarmed drone, unlike the “MQ” designation used for Predator and Reaper aircraft equipped with missiles and precision-guided bombs.
Aviation experts dubbed the drone the “Beast of Kandahar” after photographs emerged earlier this year showing the mysterious aircraft in southern Afghanistan in 2007.
The image suggested a drone with a radar-evading stealth-like design, resembling a smaller version of a B-2 bomber.
The air force said the aircraft came out of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works,” also known as Advanced Development Programs, in California — the home of sophisticated and often secret defense projects including the U-2 spy plane, the F-22 fighter jet and the F-117 Nighthawk.
The photo of the drone in Afghanistan has raised questions about why the United States would be operating a stealth unmanned aircraft in a country where insurgents have no radar systems, prompting speculation Washington was using the drones for possible spying missions in neighboring Iran or Pakistan.
The United States has carried out an extensive bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan using the Predator and larger Reaper drones.
The RQ-170 is flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, home of the F-117 stealth fighter when the program’s existence was secret — and falls under Air Combat Command’s 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. At Kandahar, the Sentinel was seen operating out of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ hangar. The RQ-170 designation is similar to that of the F-117 — a correct prefix, but out of sequence to avoid obvious guesses of a program’s existence. Technically, the RQ designation denotes an unarmed aircraft rather than the MQ prefix applied to the armed Predator and Reaper UAVs. The USAF phrase, “Support to forward deployed combat forces,” when combined with observed details, suggest a moderate degree of stealth (including a blunt leading edge, simple nozzle and overwing sensor pods) and that the Sentinel is a tactical, operations-oriented platform and not a strategic intelligence-gathering design.