Kandahar = “Black” Plane Playground (Corrected)

14.05.09

Categorie: Afghanistan, Air, David Axe, Secrecy |

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by DAVID AXE

Carpeted with poppies fueling an entrenched drug trade, and teeming with Taliban fighters who blend in with the local populace, southern Afghanistan is a prototypical counter-insurgency battleground. But Kandahar, site of the biggest NATO and U.S. base in the region, is also home to an array of sophisticated, and secretive, experimental aircraft.

An obscure French magazine has the first photo of a mysterious plane, possibly a drone, spotted over the city, that aviation guru Bill Sweetman has dubbed “The Beast of Kandahar,” pictured. Looks a lot like Lockheed Martin’s recently declassified Polecat prototype, no?

Earlier, plane spotters at Kandahar had fingered a heavily modified biz jet that previously played in U.S. Air Force war games as a “Battlefield Airborne Communications Node,” helping connect manned planes, drones and ground stations.

Could Beast and BACN be working together to spot and kill insurgents, much like the U.S. Army’s Task Force Odin in Iraq connected choppers, drones, spy planes and ground teams to shoot missiles at insurgent bomb teams?

Who knows. But it’s a safe bet, whatever Beast is, we haven’t seen the last of it and its kind. With the U.S. spending $50 billion a year on secret tech, there’s room for all sorts of amazing gear.

Just as the E-8 J-STARS prototype went to work during the 1991 Gulf War, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone saw pre-production use over Iraq in 2003, Kandahar’s “black” planes both advance the fight against the Taliban and iron out the wrinkles in the next generation of air technology.

Correction: The photo we posted initially was apparently not the one in question. We’ve replaced it with what Steve Trimble says is the right pic.

(Photo: Air & Cosmos)

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6 Responses to “Kandahar = “Black” Plane Playground (Corrected)”

  1. tim says:

    could it be the uk taranis ?

  2. BWJones says:

    Steve Trimble is wrong if he says this is a manned aircraft. If you measure the undercarriage and examine what would be required in terms of engines, there is no room for a pilot or the life support required for a pilot. What Steve is seeing is the top of the engine nacelle, blended into the wing. It actually looks a bit like the Dassault Neuron, but also like other Lockheed platforms in development.

  3. MHathaway says:

    Looks remarkably like the “Boeing X-45″, a project that has only recently be ressurected. A good comparative picture can be found here; http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/306657

  4. Is the picture working? I cannot view it

  5. David Axe says:

    Bob and John:

    I am writing to explain why I have deleted, and will continue to delete, certain of your comments.

    First, Air & Cosmos IS an obscure publication, and not just because it is in French. I read and speak French, having studied and Paris and Versailles and traveled extensively in West and Central Africa. While English is the international language of aviation and the defense industry, Air & Cosmos is obscure primarily because it has a circulation of just 20,000, versus 100,000 for Aviation Week (plus an addition 50,000 or so for AvWeek sister publication Defense Technology International). Compared to the major defense pubs, Air & Cosmos is quite small. Even USNI Proceedings has a circulation several times that of Air & Cosmos.

    But that’s not why I deleted your comments. At War Is Boring, we try hard to keep the discussion civil, and on topic. And harping on “obscure” is a distraction from the main issues raised in the post.

    As for “censorship” … if you think a moderator at a privately owned blog, deleting an off-topic comment, entails censorship, then you need to brush up on your constitutional law.

    Cheers.

  6. [...] Hush-hush robots are all the rage in the escalating Afghanistan-Pakistan war. Predator drone ops are an open secret in Pakistan, where their attacks have sparked a major controversy over alleged civilian casualties. At least one experimental “black” drone apparently operates out of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. In the same region, the Marines want new drones for rapid re-supply missions during widely-scattered infantry operations. SOCOM’s Hummingbirds might combine the Predator’s lethality with the Marine’ drone’s cargo load — and the Kandahar bot’s secrecy. [...]

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