It seems Iranian claims that an American drone crashed on its territory are true. Not only was the drone in question an American one, but also it had highly sophisticated stealth technology. According to The New York Times, the drone crashed in Iran about 140 miles from the Afghan border.
The reconnaissance platform is so sensitive that two American officials suggested that the administration seriously considered executing a retrieval mission inside Iran to recover it.
As I discussed earlier this week, covert efforts to roll back Iran’s nuclear program appear to have intensified in recent months, and will likely escalate going forward.
This is the last week of class and in my World Politics class we go over current events, including newsclips about Iran, the Russian election, the Euro crisis, US-China relationship, etc. Today I put on the screen your list of recent covert actions in Iran to get students to think about how a covert war can be happening and covered in the news but most people miss it. It was a good conversation — just thought you’d like to know your blog is being used for educational purposes (I also gave students the address so they could hopefully check it out).
Thanks for this Sean. It’s unlikely I would not have known about it otherwise and I find it very interesting. Please keep us informed as more developments occur. Cheers, -Joe
Thanks, Joe. David Sanger does a lot of great coverage on this topic.
If the drone that was shown by Iran’s Press TV is authentic, then it looks like it was largely intact. If so, then there is the danger that Iran could discover how it works — or even use it. I thought I read in the Jerusalem Post that the the drone did not crash but was electronically hijacked by the Iranians after the CIA was lost control of it. It’s unclear to me whether it crashed, it was just lightly damaged, or if it was hijacked. In any case, I sure hope the Iranians do not reuse it and fly it over US troops in the region or over Israel. That could lead to a problematic scenario.
Call me crazy, but I have to think that the pentagon has already gamed out this scenario, and I would be skeptical of any piece of sensitive equipment having a single point of failure like that.
Don’t get me wrong, this has a huge “suck factor” for me and Iran having anything of ours that is stealth is certainly a bad thing, but is it as bad as some are making it out to be?
I guess time will tell how bad it is, depending on what the Iranian can or may be able to do with it. One would think such a drone would have a self-destruct or scrambling unit that would make it worthless in the event of a loss like that (e.g., a software or virus that would destroy key components in it).
I would think so. That said, the Chinese have working stealth technology, so the cat is pretty much out of the bag by this point.
The Iranians claimed to have hacked it, but I think it is unlikely. Chances are the Iranians would likely sell it to the Chinese rather than reengineering it themselves.
Sean, that might be a bit of a hard call for me to make, since it depends on how useful or useless the drone is in the state that it is in (a complete unknown to me). I tend to take the view (or assumption) that the Iranians can hack into it, or could hire someone from another state to do it for them (from China, as you say, or maybe Russia, or some freelance hacker).
I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. The Iranians are claiming that they hacked into the drones communications systems and took control of it while it was in the air. I think this is a ridiculous claim, since to hack it one would have to see it on RADAR, which the Iranians can’t. As for them hacking it on the ground, that would be a much easier (though still difficult) task.
It looks like there are two claims. The Iranian armed forces said that they shot it down, while Iranian officials said they hijacked it, as I gathered from these:
In any case, maybe we should go in there and destroy it. It does seem in good condition for something shot down (if the picture of it is real).
“In any case, maybe we should go in there and destroy it. It does seem in good condition for something shot down (if the picture of it is real).”
The problem is that this starts a “hot” war instead of the quiet “cold” war we have simmering with Iran. I don’t know if one piece of technology, is worth starting a big war over…yet. My money is on the US continuing along its current, measured path of escalation with the Islamic Republic.
Well, we can still seek to destroy it in the cold way (if we can locate it). I’m for raising the temperature a bit on Iran, as I feel that it’s time has arrived (we’ve been negotiating for how many years now?). Btw, I realize you don’t think Iran hijacked the drone — and that may be the case — however I just heard Robert Baer (former CIA official) say on CNN that he thinks Iran could have hijacked it since it’s not that difficult to do if control over it was lost by the CIA. (I don’t claim to know for sure, of course, as I’m no drone expert.)
“we’ve been negotiating for how many years now?”
Since at least 2003.
“I just heard Robert Baer (former CIA official) say on CNN that he thinks Iran could have hijacked it since it’s not that difficult to do if control over it was lost by the CIA. (I don’t claim to know for sure, of course, as I’m no drone expert.)”
I suppose if the CIA lost control then it is quite possible. Plus Robert Baer is certainly more knowledgeable about this topic than I am.
Looking at the Iranian pictures and video, a few things stood out to me. First off, the plane has obviously taken a few knocks; there’s a clearly visible dent along the leading edge of the left wing that I can’t imagine is intentional in a stealth aircraft, there appear to be some notable scrapes along the ventral side of the aircraft, and most notably the fact that the Iranians, rather than displaying it in all its glory, had instead chosen to put it belly-down on a platform that would obscure any damage that might have been incurred in, say, a gear-up landing on unprepared ground. All things considered, the idea that the Iranians somehow manage to hack into the drone and seize control of it seems… unlikely to me.
Somehow managing to interrupt its connection to home base, however… that I can see. And if, say, the machine was programmed poorly, and told to simply enter a holding pattern until the connection could be reestablished rather than being programmed to return to base in the event of a communications failure… And if, say, the CIA was running the machine on a fairly regular, predictable route and the Iranians had twigged to that fact…
I can imagine a scenario in which a combination of poor programming, poor operational doctrine, and possibly poor operational security gave the Iranians a chance to interfere with the machine’s communications, and at that point, all they have to do is wait for it to run out of gas and fall out of the sky.
I agree, Chris.