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US Air Force confirms ‘Beast of Kandahar’ drone

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The US Air Force on Tuesday confirmed for the first time that it is flying a stealth unmanned aircraft known as the “Beast of Kandahar,” a drone spotted in photos and shrouded in secrecy.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is designed “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces,” the air force said in a brief statement.

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The “RQ” prefix for the aircraft indicates an unarmed drone, unlike the “MQ” designation used for Predator and Reaper aircraft equipped with missiles and precision-guided bombs.

Aviation experts dubbed the drone the “Beast of Kandahar” after photographs emerged earlier this year showing the mysterious aircraft in southern Afghanistan in 2007.

The image suggested a drone with a radar-evading stealth-like design, resembling a smaller version of a B-2 bomber.

A blog in the French newspaper Liberation published another photo this week, feeding speculation among aviation watchers about the classified drone.

The air force said the aircraft came out of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works,” also known as Advanced Development Programs, in California — the home of sophisticated and often secret defense projects including the U-2 spy plane, the F-22 fighter jet and the F-117 Nighthawk.

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The photo of the drone in Afghanistan has raised questions about why the United States would be operating a stealth unmanned aircraft in a country where insurgents have no radar systems, prompting speculation Washington was using the drones for possible spying missions in neighboring Iran or Pakistan.

The Sentinel was believed to have a flying wing design with no tail and with sensors built into the top side of each wing, according to published photos.

The RQ-170 is in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ request for more intelligence and surveillance resources and with the Air Force chief of staff’s plans to expand the fleet of unmanned aircraft, the air force said.

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The new drone is flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, which is under Air Combat Command’s 432nd Wing at Creech Air Base, also in Nevada.

The United States has carried out an extensive bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan using the Predator and larger Reaper drones.

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Robots or “unmanned systems” in the air and on the ground are now deployed by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, spying from the sky for hours on end, searching for booby-traps and firing lethal missiles without putting US soldiers at risk.


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2020 Election

‘Connect the dots’: Local expert says Trump’s Tulsa rally ‘likely contributed’ to surge in virus

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While a lot of bombshell stories in the Trump era have been unpredictable, this one was not. Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart said on Wednesday that the president's recent rally in the city "likely contributed" to the surging outbreak of COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” he said.

The president's campaign had hyped that more than 1 million people had expressed interest in attending the event; in the end, only about 6,000 people reportedly attended the indoor arena that could seat nearly 20,000. Despite the lackluster showing, the crowd was more than large enough to spread the virus and result in many new infections.

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In a secluded region in Russia’s Arctic they are rejecting Putin in rare protest

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Lyudmila Laptander, an activist advocating autonomy for her mineral-rich Nenets region in the Russian Arctic, worries authorities are planning to sacrifice its traditions for the promise of economic enrichment.

"If Nenets is merged with another region, I worry that no one will look after our language or our traditions, and that our small villages in the tundra will be forgotten," said Laptander, 61, a member of the Yasavey cultural group.

The autonomous region on the edge of the Arctic Ocean was gripped by protests in May against the government's plans to integrate it with neighbouring Arkhangelsk.

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People are paying to hire this donkey to crash their Zoom meetings

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The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of people to embrace meetings via Zoom, but admittedly, those can be as tedious as in-person conferences.

So one animal sanctuary in Canada, in dire need of cash after being forced to close to visitors, found a way to solve both problems.

Meet Buckwheat, a donkey at the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home, who is ready to inject some fun into your humdrum work-from-home office day -- for a price.

"Hello. We are crashing your meeting, we are crashing your meeting -- this is Buckwheat," says sanctuary volunteer Tim Fors, introducing the gray and white animal on a Zoom call.

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