Captured RQ-170, real or fake? You decide.

There’s nothing quite like a spirited debate. With high-resolution images and video readily available on the Web of the recovered RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle that went down in Iran last week, experts familiar with UAV design and journalists who cover the aviation beat are at odds over whether the photographic and video evidence displayed with bravado by Iranian officials is indeed an actual so-called “Beast of Kandahar.”

Aviation reporter David Cenciotti is believed to be the one who first stumbled upon the high-resolution photos on Iranian Web forums on Dec. 8, the same day the videos were available, reports David Axe at Wired’s Danger Room. His story has the high-resolution images.

The CIA reported last week losing track of a stealth drone on loan from the Defense Department for a secret mission on the Iran-Afghanistan border. The Iranians claim to have electronically hacked the RQ-170 and steered it to a soft landing. U.S. officials, who repeatedly declined to discuss the nature of the mission, flatly refuted that assertion, the Associated Press reports.  

A former U.S. official said the aircraft displayed in a two-minute video was indeed the RQ-170 Sentinel, but offered no explanation for the opinion, reports the Associated Press. In contrast, a former DOD official with extensive experience in UAVs said that a close examination of the visual evidence reveals a wealth of evidence that indicates the vehicle shown is fake, reports Colin Clark at AOL Defense.

First, the vehicle does not look like one that lost control and crashed, the UAV expert told AOL Defense. Second, the Iranians have hung propaganda banners that obscure the landing gear and the bottom of the aircraft, making positive identification difficult. Third, it is not the correct color. Fourth, the welds on the wing joints are not the kind used on a stealth aircraft.


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