USAF reveals RQ-170 Sentinel is new stealth UAV
The USAF confirms that the RQ-170 Sentinel is in development, and is expected "to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces", according to a statement released on 4 December.
The announcement comes after a series of images of a jet-powered, stealthy aircraft have appeared on the internet since last April, including a clear shot of the aircraft that circulated widely in early December.
But it was not immediately clear whether the aircraft shown in pictures and the RQ-170 are the same. Besides describing the RQ-170 as stealthy, the USAF released no further technical information about its new UAV, or any photos.
U.S. Air Force Reveals Operational Stealth UAV
The USAF statement came after discussion of the UAV emerged here on Ares. â€œThe fielding of the RQ-170 aligns with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gatesâ€™ request for increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Combatant Commanders and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartzâ€™s vision for an increased USAF reliance on unmanned aircraft,â€ according to the statement
The RQ-170 is flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nev. â€“ home of the F-117 stealth fighter when the programâ€™s existence was secret â€“ and falls under Air Combat Command's 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. In Kandahar, the Sentinel was seen operating out of General Atomics Aeronautical Systemsâ€™ hangar.
The 30th RS was activated as part of the 57th Operations Group on Sept. 1, 2005, and a squadron patch was approved July 17, 2007. The activation â€“ although not the full meaning of the event â€“ was noted among those who watch for signs of activity in the classified world.
The RQ-170 designation is similar to that of the F-117 â€“ a correct prefix, but out of sequence to avoid obvious guesses of a programâ€™s existence. Technically, the RQ designation denotes an unarmed aircraft rather than the MQ prefix applied to the armed Predator and Reaper UAVs. The USAF phrase, â€œSupport to forward deployed combat forces,â€ when combined with visible details that suggest a moderate degree of stealth (including a blunt leading edge, simple nozzle and overwing sensor pods) suggests that the Sentinel is a tactical, operations-oriented platform and not a strategic intelligence-gathering design.
Many questions remain about the aircraftâ€™s use. If it is a high-altitude aircraft it is painted an unusual color â€“ medium grey overall, like Predator or Reaper, rather then the dark gray or overall black that provides the best concealment at very high altitudes.
The wingspan appears to be about 65-ft., about the same as an MQ-9 Reaper. With only a few images to judge from â€“ all taken from the left side â€“ the impression is of a rather deep, fat centerbody blended into the outer wings. With its low-observable design, the aircraft could be useful for flying the borders of Iran and peering into China, India and Pakistan for useful data about missile tests and telemetry, as well as gathering signals and multi-spectral intelligence.
USAF Confirms Stealthy UAV Operations
Hier die erste Meldung im Blog einer französischen Tageszeitung:
Un drone mystérieux à Kandahar...