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?
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)