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.