back to article Iran displays video footage of captured US spy drone

Iranian state television has shown video of what it claims is a US spy drone that was hijacked by its army's electronic warfare unit. The government has shown footage of what appears to be a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, which the Iranians claim was flown from Afghanistan over the northern city of Kashmar when it was taken …


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  1. Chad H.


    The concept of other countries and soverignity is just unknown to them...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Oh I think they have a very good grasp of their sovereignty, it's just that they have always had a very fuzzy grasp of the notion of borders, and geography in general.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        And just WHO used the tag line...

        ..."The empire on which the sun never sets."?

        Well, the Spanish for one...and then there was this small island nation to the north, who also used it for a century or so. Hmmm...wonder whatever happend to them.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      A country run by bearded religious lunatics that are trying to build a nuclear bomb?

      I really can't fault the Yanks on this one!

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge


        What's wrong with beards?

      2. Bango Skank

        Religious Lunatics

        So are clean-shaven religious lunatics like Reagan, Bush, and pretty much all the current Republican contenders better than bearded ones?

        Shall we do a roll-call of invasions carried out by the clean-shaven vs the bearded?

      3. That Awful Puppy

        That would, of course, be in stark contrast to the country that is usually run by beardless religious lunatics that already have a couple thousand H-bombs and are willing to invade a nation at the slightest pretext?

      4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Bearded religious maniacs who are trying to build bombs are so much worse than clean-shaven ones who already have a massive nuclear arsenal, yes?

      5. Christian Berger


        I don't know about you, but It doesn't matter to me whether the religious lunatics building nuclear bombs have beards or not.

        So why exactly do you think the ones without beards are better than the ones with beards? Life is not like StarTrek.

        1. Simon Harris

          Life is not like StarTrek

          Are we talking beardy Riker or shaved Riker Star Trek?

      6. magnetik


        But of course it's okay if it's *our* religious nuts, and *our* greedy corporations running the show, backed by *our* nuclear weapons, right?

      7. Chad H.

        @ redriche

        As opposed to the only state that has used one?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Chad H.

          Lots of states have and still are using nuclear weapons. It used to be called mutually assured destruction, nowadays it is more simply called diplomacy.

          Iran is using 'peaceful nuclear technology' or whatever , as an element in their diplomacy. Pakistan and India made and tested nuclear weapons as an element of diplomacy.

          America dropped two nuclear weapons during a bloody war and hastened the end of that war. You may have strong feelings that they were wrong to do so but the alternatives would have been pretty bloody awful as well.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Also unknown to the Americans - the concept that there are some extremely smart people elsewhere in the world, including Iran, and dismissing out of hand the possibility that the drone really might have been take over by the Iranians is arrogant in the extreme.

      Maybe some people in the US think the Iranians live in caves or mud huts and would be confounded by an iPad? Either Iran is a backward tinpot country that hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of hijacking a technologically advanced drone. or else it's a highly advanced country that's on the verge of getting nuclear weaponry. You can't have it both ways.

      1. Knochen Brittle
        Big Brother

        Yes, we can!

        "The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

        ~ George Orwell, 1984

    4. Jim 59


      Damn right Chad. Except that as a British citizen I have to accept that my country is the most aggressive in history, that we have had a war with every other nation on earth (except Portugal), built the most extensive empire ever known, colonized or conquored left right and centre, including all 3 nations mentioned in this story, initiated oil exploitation in the middle east - ...etc etc. You get the point.

      But go ahead, lecture the USA on soverignity.

      1. Chad H.

        @ Jim

        Yes, but that's the past. Now all of those places are different countries and Whitehall doesn't get too upset if they stop taking our calls.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      of course

      the British taught us everything we know about empire building, while the EU is refining that lesson on how to consolidate power over the objections of the peons while pretending "democracy.

    6. disgruntled yank


      A remark like that I might regard as reasonable from a Swiss. From a Briton, I'm force to fall back on--I can never remember whether it was Clive or Hastings, but certainly one of those noted sovereignty-respecters--and say

      Considering your opportunities, I am not astonished at your moderation.

  2. Jan 0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Deja Vu?

    This reminds me of the shot down U2 I saw in Havana, long ago. Is it still on display?

    Full marks to the Iranians if they really achieved this electronically, rather than with surface to air missiles.

    As we used to say: "All spies will be shot."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of couse...

      If they took control of it electronically, the could have taken over one flying outside their airspace and flown it IN to their airspace.

      ... just thinking out loud here.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The drone communications were probably secured with a DigiNotar certificate....

  3. Katie Saucey
    Thumb Down

    Seriously now..

    From the vid it appears as if they stripped the paint, and proceeded to replace the radar absorbent materials with paper mache. Also the lack of landing gear is pretty lame. Come to think of it I've built better RC kits as a kid. As for the remarks about landing the thing, quite sure all they pilot are camels and carpets.

    1. sam bo

      quite sure all they pilot are camels and carpets.

      Oh Dear, that is typical of the attitude of superiority that leads to very embarrassing consequences - Twin Towers anyone ? Never underestimate your enemy.

      1. LPF
        Thumb Up

        More like over estimating....

        I mean how long did it take to reduce Iraq armed forces to so much dog litter, the same armed forces that battled Iran for 8 years! Aran armies are only tought in the minds of Liberals and Arabs themselves.

        And no sucide bombers in Market squares don't count!

        1. RichardB

          How long?

          Well, after the fairly abrupt and bloody confrontation in the early 90s to 'liberate' kuwait, the Iraqi armed forces were bombed daily by the coalition enforcement of the 'no fly zone'.

          10 years of eliminating anti aircraft and radar facilities, and any build up or organisation of land forces.

          So, all in all, about 20 years?

        2. defiler


          Iranians are Persian, not Arab. Might as well call you Mexican, eh?

          Seriously, if you're busy itching to bomb someone back into the stone age you could at least find out who they are first...

        3. ian 22


          Surprise! Iranians are Persians, not Arabs.

          However, your mistake may explain why you lot invaded Iraq. No doubt Bush II was unclear on the concept also.

      2. Jim 59

        "quite sure all they pilot are camels and carpets."

        Arab countries less tehno than the West but generally better at handling life. Eg. they don't have our alcoholism, obesety, family breakdown, crime and general misery. Perhaps we should pay more attention to their 7000 years of civilised experience. They were eating off marble tables while we were still painting our faces blue.

        "Oh Dear, that is typical of the attitude of superiority that leads to very embarrassing consequences - Twin Towers anyone ? Never underestimate your enemy."

        AQ was not an enemy of the USA before TT, and therefore not treated as such.

        1. John Sanders

          @Jim 59

          They have no gays either.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          RE: Jim 59

          "....they don't have our alcoholism, obesety, family breakdown, crime and general misery...." Sorry, but you swallowed the marketting there! It's all a facade - just catch a flight out of Jeddah and watch the "devout" Mulsims start packing back the Scotch the minute they're in the air. Obesity is also a big (pun unintended) problem in many Arab countries. As for "family breakdown", just go read up on "honour killings" to understand why they don't advertise their own problems.

          "....Perhaps we should pay more attention to their 7000 years of civilised experience...." Ah, that always makes me laugh! You forgot the bit where you left out the fact it wasn't one continual civillisation, but many different ones and often borrowing tech and knowledge from outside influences (Greece, Rome, India and even China), whilst being trampled on by a host of other "less advanced" nations (like the Greeks and Turks).

          "....They were eating off marble tables while we were still painting our faces blue....." Yes, but they stayed with very few of them eating off marble, the rest living in poverty and illeducation, whilst we built the first industrialised nation and went out and conquered them. The current Iranian government also seems intent on going backwards.

          "....AQ was not an enemy of the USA before TT...." The final and complete proof that you haven't a clue. For example, AQ had already tried blowing up the World Trade Center in 1993. I suggest you go read before you make yourself look any more stupid.

    2. TheRealRoland

      Booh!! Hisss!!

      Bad form, sport.

    3. Asgard

      @"replace the radar absorbent materials with paper mache"

      Its amazing what you can make out of paper mache these days. They can almost look like the real thing. ;)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "quite sure all they pilot are camels and carpets."

      this racism would be funnier if we didnt know that in a year's time from now america will be merrily bombing civilians there who do only have camels and carpets.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sometime back when I was designing a cryptographic chip for an american company, I referred to a very well written paper on modular exponentiation techniques from the university of tehran.

      Epic fail for having your head stuck so firmly up your behind.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      quite surprised

      You managed to put down your hamburger and reach around your enormous girth long enough for your pudgy fingers to poke out that lazy and inaccurate stereotype.

      Unless you out-ironied me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hey, AC at 10:50

        as an American, I find that comment completely unfair and stereotypical. Or am I missing something here?

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          of unfairness and missed things

          "as an American, I find that comment completely unfair and stereotypical. Or am I missing something here?"

          I assume AC was using the "own medicine" technique; that would be what you are missing.

          As for unfairness, how much do you weight?

          Coat, door, cab.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It seems likely that someone operating a secret plane that might do a bellyflop on the enemy's desert might paint it in a sandy-coloured finish. The stealth-coating engineers are probably allowed to think outside of the Henry Ford paintbox, even if we don't normally see them like that on the telly.

      Carpet comment arrogant and stupid.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


        If I were trying to make something like this _visibly_ stealthy, over a desert, I'd paint the bottom greyish-blue, and the top yellowish-brown. Just saying.

        And as for the jingoistic idiot above posting about camels and carpets - the attitude of you and people like you is precisely why so many people in the middle east were seen to be celebrating when some fundamentalist nutjobs decided to fly planes into your buildings, rather than offering ther condolences. Also, you might like to note that fundamentalism is not unique to the one religion in question, but is also quite widespread amongst Christians. This does not magically make it some sort of 'good' fundamentalism.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Seriously now

      Seriously, don'tcha just lurve Americans, they're so quaint.

  4. Friendly Neighborhood Yank

    Pure Speculation

    Since no one really knows, this is open to speculation - and here's mine. It's probably the real deal, but it's most likely that control was lost and it went into a flat spin and crashed on it's belly (which is why they are covering that part).

    If it is real, then the Chinese and Russians are definitely in a bidding war with Iran to get the thing. Of course, if I were the Iranians, I wouldn't stand to close to it - when the US destroys it with a missile, there is probably going to be quite the crater.

    /Explosion icon, because it's likely to be the drones ultimate fate.

    1. Danny 14


      i'm quite surprised they dont have "self destruct" capability.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        if they lost communication with the drone they wouldn't have been able to destroy it. I doubt they would set it up to auto-destruct if communication was lost... that could lead to all sorts of undesired consequences

      2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        I was wondering that surely this sort thing must have a "media cleaning" routine if it goes out of contact for more than a certain amount of time, wipe all ordnance it has collected so far to avoid it falling into enemy hands?

      3. tmTM
        Paris Hilton

        Me either

        Considering the American's went to great lengths to destroy a chopper in the Osama raid, you'd of thought they'd fit unmanned drones with a similar system.

        Perhaps they have and are waiting for the Iranians to transport it to one of their secret underground nuclear weapons facilities.

        Paris, because Americans can't think that far ahead.

    2. Bango Skank


      Well Beijing might get pretty pissy if somebody made craters in their "foreign recovered materials" depot.

      Cause by now that's where all the internals are by now.

  5. darkpill

    Fake and gay.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      landing gear

      i agree it looks somewhat fishy (not literally), but the lack of landing gear suggests that it is real but damaged. otherwise, why not just make a fake one with fake landing gear too?

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        "...otherwise, why not just make a fake one with fake landing gear too?"

        Because in all the sneaky pics taken of one in flight, the landing gear is retracted. Any attempt to fake it using guesswork would give the game away. The yanks could easily release a couple of shots of the real thing's gear (without giving away anything of importance) along with a PR mentioning Jimmy Hill. Worth it to see the barking loons with egg all over their faces...

        1. S Watts

          landing gear?

          "Because in all the sneaky pics taken of one in flight, the landing gear is retracted."

          I don't think that the undercarriage configuration is so secret it couldn't be mocked for something like this. In fact, the "shown footage" link in the article includes stock picture of one of these on a runway.

          Meanwhile: If this is genuine, then I wouldn't doubt that Iran _could_ have had some assistance from military advisers from "elsewhere", assuming they needed help...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fake for the media - probably yes

      Dunno about the other bit.

      In any case, I would not underestimate a country which which can successfully carry out an attack on a certificate authority, get fake certs and do MIM on its dissenters traffic. Did I just say that that (and other Iranian "hacker") attacks were government sponsored? Silly me...

      As far as showing to the media - I would be surprised if they show the media the real deal. Same as with USSR and the shot down Powell's U2 - the real bits of the plane were never shown. Same as with many other similar "incidents".

      In any case, if there is an unintentional (did I just say unintentional, silly me, that "incident" in Belgrade was an "honest mistake" and had nothing to do with the bits from the downed F117) pair of blockbusters dropped on the Chinese embassy in Teheran we will know who won the bidding.

    3. MacGyver
      IT Angle

      I agree..

      Not only would they have to find and match the signal coming in, and be able to track it, then crack and decrypt the control signal, block the real one, then in the span of 5 minutes; dissect the signal, figure out the control interface protocol, then find someone that can write the program to talk to the control interface, then find a pilot to be able to fly a tail-less remote control plane blind on a mocked-up control panel, unless we are also talking about them being able to decode and display the video data in real-time too. I think not.

      They've obviously have been watching too much CSI.

      Maybe they have just been planning this for awhile, even still, I think the CSI Miami guys would have a hard time pulling this off, and they can pull cell phone data out of phones wirelessly on their magic table without even touching the phone.

      My guess, they jammed the signal and the real one fell out of the sky, and smashed into lots of small pieces, and this is their mockup of what they think it looked like. Or, that given a situation where there is a lack of a control signal this thing is programmed to "land" on it's own (I certainly would hope not).

      1. tonysmith

        too much CSI?

        If I remember correctly some rag tags in Iraq and maybe the flip flop cave men in Afghanistan managed to 'hack' US drones and get live video feeds which in turn allowed them to prepare for US attacks.

        The notion of Iran doing this via 'cyber warfare!' is not completely out of this world. It's most probably that sort of snooty 'they're too thick, so let us not even bother securing our high tech toys' attitude that most probably got them in the mess.

    4. skeptical i
      Thumb Down

      Huh, didn't know aircraft (or the footage thereof) had sexual preferences.

      Unless you're just being a bigot, in which case kindly keep it to yourself.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protected from takeover???

    Hardly! American mentality is natorious to deploy high tech gear without protection. Feeds of spy drones is unencrypted and intercepted by Libyans and other countries for yonks. It takes off the shelf parts and a laptop and you are in.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      You are in to listen

      You are not in to control.

      Only the video feeds were unencrypted. The control channel (IIRC) was not. So the bits from laptop in itself would not be enough to control it.

  8. John Sanders

    Wanna bet...

    That in case of an extensive period of lost communications those thingies fry anything of value inside the unit.

    Having being said that, the thing screams: FAKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apparently not. According to the yanks the thing is designed to go find itself a landing spot. Bizarre, but true according to them. Having said that I reckon this one is a fake.

    2. Tom 7

      Since the Americans have admitted loosing one

      I think its unlikely someone made a fake for the publicity stunt.

      And as for extensive periods of lost communication leading to self destruction that require the humility to actually believe what you were doing could go wrong which is not likely.

    3. Tchou
      Thumb Up

      You might

      suffer a bad case of mixing US tv movies and actual technology.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Bad Bet

      Your self-destruct system would only cause massive financial and maybe human damage during maintenance. These systems are extremely complex, extremely expensive and (relatively) heavy. The designers don't want to screw it up with some sort of half-brained self-destruct mechanism. Neither do they want to be responsible for badly burned mechanics.

  9. a_been

    The Americans admitted they had "lost contact" with one of these over "western Afghanistan" over a weak ago, or about 12-24 hours after the Iranians said they had managed to hack into one flying over Iran and took control of it. Reuters and AFP had several reports about it. Nice to see el Reg following the rule of "pics or it didn't happen" though.

    1. itzman

      Somehwat between the two positions..

      The Iranians found out what frequency hopping channels it was on, and built a broad spectrum high power jammer and aimed it at the plane.

      Lacking any control signal, it went to autopilot and landed itself, possibly frying some internal chips in the process.

      There may not BE that much secrecy in it anyway.

      What it as doing was not secret. The information it captured is known to the Iranians anyway.

      Its general shape is known. What sin;t known is the details of its encryption in the command and control areas and exactly what its built of.

      But that probably isn't of much use anyway..unless you can reproduce the same materials...

      ...and what would Iran do with its own anyway?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the details of its encryption

        easily wiped from an EEPROM or similar, at negligible cost

  10. jake Silver badge

    My only question is ...

    Why are the Iranian authorities begging to be attacked by the UN/US?

    My gut feeling is that the PTB in Iran have enough of the last 30 years of Iran's GNP in "friendly offshore accounts" that they are ready to leave the slime-pit that they have created in what was once the "center of the world" wonder that was Persia[1] ... but they aren't culturally capable of ducking & running, because that would cause them to lose face.

    Yes, I've been there, pre & post 1979. The best-man at my wedding, and the best friend I have, was (and is) Iranian. Today's Iran is a very sad shadow of what it was even in 1975. He agrees with my assessment, BTW ...

    [1] I don't use Wiki much, but this pic describes what I'm talking about:

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      erm.... actually it's some people in the US and Israel who are begging to attack Iran. The politicians in the US are beholden to the Israel lobby to such an extent that most prioritise Israel's interests over US ones in the middle east. The US has no real strategic concern with Iran beyond a basic stability that keeps the strait of Hormuz open to oil tanker shipping.

      Those who REALLY want to attack Iran are the Israeli far right, partly concerned about the 'destroy Israel' rhetoric coming from Iran (which is really mostly rhetoric), but mostly because they want to stay the only nuclear-capable country in the region (which allows them pretty much a free hand in dealing with Palestine without the other Arab countries interfering).

      Sure there are some ultra-religious Islamist nuts in Iran ranting on about the great satan, executing gay people and blowing up Buddha statues, but they're no different from the ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel who are intent on permanently occupying the whole of the west bank. nor from the right-wing Christianists* in the US.

      *Christianist = Christian version of Islamists. Christians are in favour of love, peace and charity, Christianists are in favour of capital punishment, torture, war on non-Christians, and entrenching their religious prejudices in the US constitution. Since they can't execute gays in the US, they materially support this practice in places such as Uganda.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: James Micallef

        If the US administration is so beholden to the Isreal lobby, why was the Obumbler so quick to demand Israel stop all settlement building and heap criticism on the Israelis, whilst ignoring Palestinian failings to meet their roadmap commitments? Please go read a bit instead of just getting your views spoonfed to you.

        1. a_been


          And yet he didn't stop a single cent of all the billions going to Israel every year from the US taxpayer. Action speaks louder than words and the Israeli government has shown by their actions that their words mean nothing.

    2. Knochen Brittle

      Another question is ...

      ... why do you sound like a lobrau Nazi whining for Operation Barbarossa to begin?

      In any case, enjoy your personal Stalingrad ... and, BTW, well done on enrolling a token Untermensch to cheer on your glorious march to the Endsieg!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    For the people that think it is fake...

    The US Department of Defense just confirmed it is the real deal. And more...they admitted lying when they said it "crashed" on the Iranian side. The drone is pretty much intact and there is a strong chance it was guided to a rough landing by the Iranian hackers.

    Oh well.....Americans: lying to everybody and bullying others since 1776.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      no they didn't. Does Ahmadinejad know you are on the net?

  12. Anon-engy

    Lets see..

    Let's see, if you where planning a secret strike on an Iranian site:

    1. It would be good to know where the weak spots in the thier radar systems are to help in planning the route for a strike with stealth aircraft. (Oops we lost track of the darn thing, plausible deniability, it just happen to stray over your country.)

    2. If you knew that Iran had some jamming abilities sold to them by the Russians to use against thier "Friends the Americans" that could jam the ROV's, then fly one over Iran and monitor the transient signals coming from the ground would be able to tell you thier real capabilities, so you could design and employ counter measures.

    3. Any normal country that got thier hands on a super secret craft would take it to a one of thier own secret bases/research centers (i.e. underground where you a developing other nasty technologies). If you knew that then just send over a dumbed down version and when it gets to its final location, have it phone home, to pin point that location, which nows becomes a target of oppurtunity.

    4. If the Americans didn't use the latest stealth helicopter on the raid to get Bin Laden, as important as that was, then do you really believe they would be using the cutting edge ROV's in Afgan. for just any old willy-nilly operation to gather information about a bunch of terrorist. They won't even base the B-2's outside of the continiental USA.

    5. If you knew that if the Iranians got thier hands on it, they are like all arabs, they would sell it anybody that will help them "secretly" develop Nuclear weapons (i.e. China/Russia"). So develop a special version of it with lame backward technology and then let the Chinese and Russians spend billions trying to reverse engineer the technology that you already have figured out how to defeat.

    Just another day at the "Farm" delivering mis-information and false leads to anyone dumb enough to believe it..........

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I used to know someone who worked on the drawings for Concorde. He reckoned this sort of thing was going on constantly back in the day and spies were everywhere. He said he actually felt quite sorry for his unfortunate counterparts probably holed up for weeks on end in some secret bunker trying to piece together and make sense of the rubbish they had been fed. On the other hand I think they must have got the upper hand eventually as the soviet supersonic airliner made its public début first IIRC. Amazing how much energy they were prepared to expend on a project that was really prestige value only (and almost the antitheses of the socialist ideal).

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        RE: Misinformation

        "......I think they must have got the upper hand eventually as the soviet supersonic airliner made its public début first....." Yes, Corcordeski (Tu-144) flew about a year before Concorde, but represented the application of brute enginerring rather than the technical masterpiece that was Concorde. This was because the Soviets had a hard time understanding half the information they pinched (and/or were given) from the French end. Proof of this was seen at the Paris Air Show crash, where the Tu-144 prototype had a complete structural failure in a relatively low-G manouvere the Concorde could easily have survived.

        As regards self-destruction, I'm told that sensitive components in US "recce" systems have an ability to wipe themselves if they stray past a set period. This type of self-deletion doesn't pose a risk to groundcrew.

    2. carl 10

      "they are like all arabs"

      "they are like all arabs" - except the Iranians are not actually arabs and are ethnically distinct.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      ..that Iranians are not Arabs and you are a hillbilly.

  13. Andy 97

    Nice PR coup

    Can you imagine the Fox News out put on this?

    "You gone taken a wrroooong turnin' there boy!"

    In all honesty, the idea of the Iranians being able to crack a heavily ciphered command stream is very unlikely, but their propaganda department it genius.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre


      Remember that "the biggest military hack of all time" was performed by entering the default password for a remote access program...

      Or do you reckon that the Iranian are tech-illiterate neandertals? In that case, think again. People who can't solve problems by throwing pharaonic amounts of cash at them tend to develop smarter ways, in compensation.

  14. Stuart 25

    If it is real, and the yanks do admit to losing a drone over Iran, then hopefully whoever allowed it to be deployed over hostile airspace without a decent self-destruct system will soon be in a cell next to Bradley Manning.

  15. G.H.

    Where's the Lewis Page rant?!

    1. Knochen Brittle
      Thumb Up

      Too busy ... stroking his massive Penetrator for consolation

      [with Bryant holding up the heavy end for Britain, as he stares down the barrel in anticipation of another albumin-shower]

      PS: Well done, Iran, just a quick peek at this little Xmas present should handily be worth a string of UNSC vetoes to the right people.

  16. DrXym

    If it were a fake

    Then isn't the US coming straight out and saying its a fake? Is it really in their interest for the world to believe Iran could commandeer one of their most sophisticated spy drones and land it?

    While it's doubtful Iran did what they claimed, one wonders how they might have laid their hands on it. Maybe unusual system events cause it to enter a glide and land mode which the Iranians inadvertantly managed to cause to happen. Maybe it just ran out of fuel or got confused and Iran got lucky when it landed on their side.

    Or maybe it is a paper mache mockup, but the silence from the US is curious.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Is it really in their interest for the world to believe Iran could commandeer one of their most sophisticated spy drones and land it?"

      Yes. Because everyone who then thinks that these things are no longer a threat ("just listen for it and log in!") will probably cling onto that notion right up until the point one of them shoves a smart bomb up their behind without warning. I think it's known as giving your opponents a false sense of security.

  17. Rob

    My 2 pence worth

    I reckon it's the real deal, it looks like it's been sort of bolted back together again, so if they did take control of it, they might of only got control of he flight surfaces and maybe landing gear was not an option.

    Judging by the Americans refusing to comment I think they are worried to say the least as I'm pretty sure the Chinese will end up being the highest bidder. These things would probably make a great stealthy nuke delivery system with a bit of modification.

  18. Sean O'Connor 1

    I wonder if the drone is programmed to try and land itself automatically if it suffers a major systems/communications failure?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      In which case...

      All you'd need to do is jam the command frequency, which to be honest is what i'd do immediately on seeing one flying about.

      The real question is why it lands nearby instead of turning around and going home when comms are lost if that is the case.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        One should Assume

        ..that the control channel is cryptographically secured. And that loss of connection for more than 5 minutes results in "GOTO FLY_HOME_PROC".

        It appears not plausible the Iranians broke into the crypto of the command channel and sent their own commands. But who knows, maybe they have developed some elite cryptologic capability ?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it captured, or...

    ...did it defect?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    looks like something homer simpson would make. So it's probably real.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    even my poor research skills (I read the article on the BBC yesterday) bring up this

    "US officials have acknowledged the loss of the unmanned plane, saying it had malfunctioned."

  22. Ben 4

    Fake, dodgy model

    Surely this has to be fake? The picture in the New York Times shows a very dodgy looking model.

    The join between the body and the wing is super sloppy. Seriously doubt Lockheed are that poor at nailing one of these things together.

    And the fact that the underside isn't shown just adds to the dubious nature of this PR stunt.

    1. Bango Skank

      skin deep

      yeah, the guts are probably already in the Russian and Chinese hands and all that's left is the skin.

    2. Alan Dougherty

      When flying at high altitude and fast speeds, body panels contract.

      Take a look at the SR-71.. I'ts panels wehere so badly fitting at sea-level on the runway, that it leaked fuel until it got fast and high enough.

      A sloppy join on the ground could well be deliberate.

      1. SkippyBing


        Not really relevant , the Blackbird flew at around Mach 3.0, the Beast of Kandahar is subsonic, you don't really want to be screaming around if you're trying to monitor one area of a country.

        Altitude is irrelevant, at 50,000' the temperature is around -56C, the heating is all from skin friction due to speed, I think Concorde got up to around 100C at Mach 2.0.

        It does look very badly put together for a Lockheed product, and the colour is odd, strangely at 50,000 you don't want to be painted the same colour as the desert as it's a long way away the finish will be to reduce the IR signature and possibly the radar signature as well. Generally some shade of gray is best.

    3. Peter Simpson 1
      Black Helicopters

      Underside isn't shown

      Because of the hay bales holding it all up. I seriously doubt it was recovered in one piece, else it would have been shown off the day they recovered it. Plenty of Bondo, duct tape and a paint job accounts for the several days between reported recovery and display...

  23. Timmay

    Skulls and stripes flag

    Come on Iran, really? Skulls and stripes flag? If you want to be taken seriously and have any hope of any respect on the international stage, you have to take the higher ground and not resort to petty gestures like displaying a US flag with the stars replaced with skulls next to this thing.

    Yes, we understand you hate the US, but you don't see other countries taking the piss or mocking flags of countries they have beef with.

    1. RichardB

      errr... what?

      Really? Seriously?

      U mad?

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      Because the US NEVER mocked and demonised the hammer and sickle of the USSR.

      Yes, it;s rather childish and ficaile to mock the flag of another country, but lets not claim that Iran are the only ones ever to be so crass. Certain other nations have a reputation for crassness y'know.

  24. Chris Byers

    Not sure

    There are a lot of factors to consider here, but for me primarily there are 2 main points.

    1. If it was shot down or fell out of the sky for whatever reason, it would be trashed, totally, and not just the hidden underside. As it is the one being displayed is in far too good a condition for this to be the case.

    2. If it was 'hacked' or the Iranians had somehow taken control of it, they would need indepth knowledge of how to actually fly the thing and send the correct command/control signals i.e. what makes the flaps and other fight controls work. You can't just use a cheap joystick and FSX plugin to do this (although if this was how it was controlled, heads are going to roll somewhere in the US!).

    By all the noise (or lack of it) from the US operators, they probaly have lost a drone. But is this the one being displayed? I remain skeptical.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out in the open?

    That doesn't look like it's in a very safe place, kind of like a sports hall or at leasta place with lots of windows... Which is odd since if I'd be expecting it would have a 'here I am' signal being sent back to missile command?

    1. Fibbles

      Am i the only person here who reads other news sources?

      The Americans have confirmed the plane is genuine. They also said that they considered several plans for retrieving/destroying it. In the end they shelved the plans as Iran was likely to view any such action as an act of war.

    2. Rob

      It could well be...

      ... but a signal will not get through if it is being jammed.

  26. ectoraige
    Black Helicopters

    Trojan Horse

    It's filled with members of the top-secret elite dwarf unit Seal Team 0.6 just waiting for the drone to be shown to Ahmadinejad.

  27. Jamie Kitson

    More likely

    Didn't the Americans admit to loosing control of it? Could it not have glided to a soft crash landing?

  28. HeyMickey

    So now this thing is in the wild, when do we get to see the teardown on iFixit???

    Also, what's the odds this thing runs Linux somewhere - maybe they should run 'strings | grep GPL' over the fimware before sending a source request to L-M (Does someone flying something into your airspace count as 'distribution'?).

    Seems to be the first thing most hackers do when acquiring a new shiny...

  29. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I love

    the outrighted Iranian indignation at the violation of their airspace

    And yet these are the same people sending weapons to Lebanon to be fired into Israel

    Moral high ground? naww they're down in the swamp with the rest of us

    1. Local Group

      Tout le monde

      Every nation is indignant at the violation of their air space.

      It's de rigueur.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An observation

    Judging by the comments posted by what I can only take to be from the inhabitants of the land of the free I would just like to say, if that's how they think then I would rather be repressed in Iran than paranoid in the USA.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would Iran want money from China, Russia, et al? They have plenty of money from oil. Surely they'll be bargaining for political favours and/or technology instead?

    The Iranians will already know the US have been spying on them with drones & satellites for many years. Propaganda is the only reason to show it on TV - it makes the US look bad and incompetent.

  32. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Beavis and Butthead!

    Surely true fans must have seen the episode in the latest season where they lads manage to play with a US Army drone control station, thinking they are playing a free video game?

  33. Sir Lancelot

    So much for wireless controls

    They should have equiped the drone with cabled control: simply pull the cable to get it back when lost!

  34. Zolko Silver badge

    "Beast of Kandahar"

    This thing is said to have flown for years in Afghanistan, in Kandahar. Iran's secret services have thus had years to collect and analyse (and crack) the radio signals that control this drone ... just thinking

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Not Likely

      That would probably entail breaking something like AES256, SH256 and/or RSA. Or maybe a secret cipher developed/analyzed by NSA. Not completely impossible, but highly unlikely.

      It has been speculated they did that with Russian or Chinese help, but that would also be unlikely, as these countries have guarded their crypotologic exploits very closely. The ability to break a cipher is clearly a state secret of the highest degree...

  35. Stylee

    Bearded Camel Arabs

    @RedRichie - "A country run by bearded religious lunatics that are trying to build a nuclear bomb"

    Sounds a lot like the good ol' US of A to me. Except they already have thousands of nuclear weapons. And beards are not so popular these days.

    @sam bo - "quite sure all they pilot are camels and carpets"

    You must be a troll. No one is that much of an ignorant twat, surely.

    @Anon-engy - "they are like all arabs"

    Iran is Persian, not Arab.

  36. Sam 15

    Re:Timmay Skulls and stripes flag #

    I do understand that many (most?) US citizens treat their flag as though it were a sacred icon, but that isn't by any means a universal view.

    Most people are much more relaxed about their own national flags - it's not much more than a logo after all - and by extension it isn't a big thing if someone tries to irritate you by burning it, or 'mutilating' it.

    Now if they had messed with the golden arches...

    1. Timmay

      For the record, I'm not from the US, but I agree with you, which is why I shake my head in disbelief (and let out a little chuckle) that they do things like this - it's why it appears so petty and childish.

  37. Local Group

    Moscow Bound

    on one of those lumbering Russian transports with 16 engines that fly 120 mph.

    We shall soon know even less than we do today about the ill fated drone.

    Then we will be forced to revisit Mondo Kardashian (a good thing)..

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart people

    Yep the Iranians, Russians and Chinese have some truely smart , educated people... that have to resort to hacking into US military contractors computers to steal what the Americans are now creating. If they are so smart, why didn't they come up with all of the stealth stuff first.. simple they wait until someone else develops it and then they figure out how to steal it.

    Intelligences comes from being able to think up the idea and then create it and not from hacking it. Jamming is not a new concept.

    1. Local Group

      @AC > 'paranoid in the USA"

      I think you'll find that weapons of destruction, mass or otherwise, are not protected by patents. There is no patent office in Switzerland with a benign Einstein type behind a counter pleasantly telling some Field Marshall from Germany that the U.S. alone can build and detonate a thermonuclear device. ("Es tut mir leid, Generalfeldmarschall, dieser waffe ist besetzt.")

      >"If they are so smart, why didn't they come up with all of the stealth stuff first.. simple they wait until someone else develops it and then they figure out how to steal it."

      With budgetary constraints being what they are, can you really fault the Russians or the Chinese for saving a few bucks?

      One of two things happened in Iran: either the Russians, who have been working on controlling an enemy drone since we first sent one up, were successful and brought one down and are reverse engineering it at an air force base in Russia now (most likely).

      Or Commander John Wayne convinced the Pentagon to build a Mickey Mouse drone, ease it down into Iran to trick the Russian-Chinese-Iranian axis into going into full production, after which they lose the subsequent world war (not so likely).

      The Russians are all over Iran today like peanut butter on a 3 year old's hands.

    2. skeptical i

      "All's fair in love and war", no?

      It may be more honorable to design ones own systems, but it's probably faster to steal ideas from elsewhere. Vive le capitalism!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Smart people

    >Intelligences comes from being able to think up the idea and then create it

    And there was me thinking it was the first to patent.

    1. Local Group

      Silly You

      You're so last century. Like your obsession with the voluptuous Kim Kardashian's and her fin de siecle figure. Kardashian should have been born in the time of Mae West and Jane Russell.

      They give another meaning to the word hippy.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    How I Would Do It

    I would have mounted a precision rifle (12mm caliber) in the second seat of a Mig25, looking downwards. Then acquire the drone while overflying my territory optically, fly over it with the Mig25 and put a bullet through the jet turbine. That will disable thrust and (hopefully) make the drone glide to earth with some damage sustained. But assuming the drone does indeed have proper gliding characteristics, the resulting wreck could easily be what we have seen in the video.

    Disabling of the jet turbine could be trained using commercially available engines for executive jets. Surely different parts of the engine will show different failure modes.

    Then of course I would tell the world I did it electronically, to make sure my approach will work again in a future requirement.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: How I Would Do It

      "I would have mounted a precision rifle (12mm caliber) in the second seat of a Mig25, looking downwards....." Do you mean 12.7mm? Also, there is a lot of airframe and other vital bits between the rear cockpit and the fuselage bottom of the MiG-25PU two-seater, which would make your reverse Schrage-Musik installation a bit tricky. Besides the fact the Iranians don't actually have any MiG-25s....

      ".....Then acquire the drone while overflying my territory optically...." Seeing as a MiG-25's RP-25 radar wouldn't be able to acquire a stealth drone like the RQ-170, how exactly do you propose to find the drone in the first place in order to close to a range where you could track it optically? In fact, this points out a very obvious hole in the Iranian story - how did they even know the drone was airborne in the first place in order to mount their claimed "skyhack"? The coms link off the drone is directional and is pointed upwards at a satellite, not sprayed in all directions, so it is unlikley they could claim they tracked it by radio detection. They also don't have a ground radar with the capability to detect it (even the TOR SA-15 systems Russia may or may not have sold Iran are designed for hitting low-flying stirke aircraft, not stealth drones at 50,000+ feet).

      " over it with the Mig25 and put a bullet through the jet turbine...." You would have to hit exactly the right spot as even the slightest innaccuracy could make the drone catch fire or explode, or not do the damage required to stop the engine. So you would need very detailed information on the interior of the enginebay in order to make sure you were aiming for the right spot, which the Iranians are unlikley to have had.

      The American explanation is still the simplest and therefore the most likely - the drone malfunctioned and the Iranians are just seizing the chance to big-up their capabilities with a little propaganda.

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