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Tue, Dec 20, 2011

Conflicting Stories Surface Over Drone Downing

U.S. Cites Possible Pilot Error ... Iran Claims It Took Control Of The Aircraft

Reports differ as to how an RQ-170 Sentinal UAV fell into the hands of Iran. U.S. officials say the drone may have been lost due to a combination of pilot error and mechanical problems, but Iran says it used a GPS hack to convince the aircraft to land.

Reuters reports that it is still not known exactly what happened, but officials say that the pilot of the aircraft could have destroyed it had he or she taken action at a higher altitude. Sources within the Department of Defense who requested anonymity said that it is possible that the aircraft broke into several large pieces when it crashed in Iran, allowing the Iranian government to reassemble the aircraft and put it on display. The sources said the aerodynamic qualities of the Sentinal prevented a "catastrophic crash" once it had dropped below a certain altitude.

Iran tells a different story. Officials there claim its scientists managed  to re-program the aircraft's GPS using knowledge acquired from other captured UAVs. They say they fooled the Sentinal into landing in Iran, a claim U.S. officials call "ludicrous" according to Fox News. The claim is the latest in a string of explanations used by Iran, which has also said it managed to jam the signals used by U.S. operators to control the airplane. There are reports that Russia has sold sophisticated jamming equipment to Iran.

But one analyst told Fox News that it possible that the aircraft simply ran out of fuel, and that Iran had no hand in bringing the aircraft down. The principal concern among DoD officials is that Iran will learn about U.S. stealth technology from examining the aircraft. The on-board computers are believed to be heavily encrypted, making retrieval of data nearly impossible, and the sensors on board are said to be older technology.



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