“Something is really amiss here,” the engineer says. It has been around a week since the U.S. admitted it lost contact with an RQ-170 Sentinel Unmanned Aerial Vehicle over the Iran-Afghanistan border — and two days since Tehran showed off pictures and videos purporting to show the secretive Sentinel mostly intact and being inspected by Iranian officers.
The stealthy Sentinel, built in small numbers in the early 2000s by Lockheed Martin, was most likely looking for evidence of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency, analysts said.
The images seemed to corroborate Tehran’s narrative: that it used electronic jamming to force the RQ-170 down while the bat-shaped craft was spying on Iranian facilities, and now Iranian engineers will disassemble the intact drone to learn its secrets. Given the drone’s apparently excellent condition, “there is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly,” U.S. Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz confessed.