“Can We Have Our Drone Back Please?”

Apart from being a major embarrassment for the CIA, the loss of a spy drone by America has other implications too, which may be far reaching. As one would expect, there were first direct denials by the White House, followed later by a statement that the CIA was ‘having trouble’ with one of its UAV’s. It was not until pictures of the captured craft were shown to the world on Iranian TV that the whole truth came out. This time ‘deniability’ did not save the day! 

Iran Shows Off Captured UAV

An announcement by Iran today says they intend to reverse-engineer (copy) the drone and add it to their own military arsenal. There can be little doubt the Iranians will learn a great deal from the vehicle, and will make a quantum leap forward in military hardware giving them a major technological advantage over most countries in the world.

Naturally, this will take them a couple of years, but if they achieve a working model of their own they will put it to good use. Not only will it allow them to spy on their neighbours, especially Iraq, but also American bases in the Middle East. I doubt they will ever manage to fly one over continental America, for the USA has sufficient in its armoury to shoot down any unmanned drone flying over their territory, but having said that, it is a ‘stealth’ machine. Either way, it would still be disconcerting to say the least to know Iran could fly one over their overseas bases.

RQ-170 Sentinel UAV

Many will say it was just a matter of time before someone found a way to hi-jack control over a drone and I suppose it was. From the news bulletins, it would appear the Iranian military managed to hack into the drone’s control systems and simply fly it to one of their bases. I can just imagine the consternation at CIA headquarters when the pilot lost control and could only sit and watch as the craft was landed in ‘enemy’ territory by someone else.

The most threatening aspect of the whole affair is not just the ‘gift’ of the technology, but also the information that was on board. While much of it was probably focussed on Iran, what else was in the memory banks?

Developed by Lockheed Martin

It has also been revealed that Iran may allow Chinese and Russian experts access to the technology and data gleaned from the UAV. Considering the advanced nature of the electronics on board, and the unique ‘stealth’ characteristics of the craft, this would be a serious blow to the United States.

It is certain that America, and in particular the CIA, will be desperate to regain possession of the drone and its secrets, but its not worth going to war over. Perhaps we will see in the near future a covert operation by one or other SEAL team to destroy it before too many secrets are revealed, but that in my opinion is unlikely, for such an act will most certainly be seen as an ‘act of war’ by the touchy Iranians. Another possibility is a Tomahawk missile attack on the facility, but again this would be seen as an act of war.

There is a possibility the CIA has operatives within Iran who can get to it and destroy the drone before too many secrets are uncovered, but this is open to speculation.

UAV Pilot In Action

It is perhaps lucky for America that it was in fact pilot-less. Otherwise we may have seen a repeat of the 1960 event when a U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia during the Cold War, which resulted in a show trial of the pilot Gary Powers and caused major embarrassment for the USA. 

At the  moment it would seem that a stalemate exists, for Iran has made it clear they have no intention of returning the drone and options for the US government are severely limited considering the already frosty relationship between the two countries.

Israel - A Force to be Reckoned With

There is however one ‘fly in the ointment’ (isn’t there always), and this one goes by the name of Israel. It is certain Iran’s arch enemy will not want to see them with this technology, for it would be no surprise if in a couple of years the Iranian military started flying covert missions over Israel to spy on the military bases there. Considering the constant threat Israel poses to their nuclear weapon programme, it is logical they will wish to know as much as they can about what they are facing.

If Iran does not get ‘the bomb’, Israel has nothing to fear militarily but should this happen, the whole country would be under constant threat of a nuclear attack. Pilot-less drones could conceivably be used to deliver such a weapon, and this will not have been forgotten by the Israeli military.

Ahmadinejad At the UN

As to what happens now, well, that’s open to speculation. I do not see the USA being able to apply any direct pressure on Iran for its return, for the country is already under UN sanctions over its nuclear programme. As to military action, that would be a major risk for the United States, for not only would it find itself involved in yet another war against an Islamic State after Iraq and Afghanistan, but the repercussions world-wide would be tremendous. 

To me it seems all the USA can do in this case is try and limit the damage caused by this incident and make future drones more secure electronically.


2 Responses to ““Can We Have Our Drone Back Please?””

  1. Thomas Denny uk Says:

    I am absolutly appalled by the americans gung ho attitude to no failsafe systems not built into this drone in emergency situations,
    the best brains would have worked on this to be able to hijack the gps beggars belief.
    God know how many £dollars were spent on developing this drone some heads should roll.


    • Hi Thomas,
      Thanks for your comment, and yes you are quite right. I guess they were over-confident and never thought anyone else would be clever enough to hack into their system. Rather short-sighted by any means, and maybe heads will roll, although I doubt you or I will get to hear about it. Perhaps future drones will have a self-destruct when the guidance system in hacked – who knows? Such a thing would seem fairly obvious to you and I , but there again, neither of us is clever enough work at the Pentagon.
      Happy New Year


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