Friday, December 04, 2009

The Beast of Kandahar has a Designation

Earlier this week, we posted the latest photo of the "Beast of Kandahar," the stealthy, high-endurance UAV that has been operating from our airfields in Afghanistan since 2007.

Now. one the first sites to publish the new photo (Gizmodo), has more details on the drone. First of all, the Air Force has confirmed its existence and provided the UAV's designation. It's called the RQ-170 Sentinel, and it's operated by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of 432nd Wing based at Creech AFB near Las Vegas.

As we've noted previously, the Sentinel seems to be an odd choice for missions in Afghanistan. True, the drone can provide long-range, high-altitude surveillance, but there are other platforms (notably Global Hawk) that have similar capabilities. We're still guessing that the RQ-171's primary targets are located in other countries, including Iran. A UAV like the Sentinel would be ideal for keeping an eye on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

With the Sentinel's existence now confirmed, that raises the inevitable question: what else does the Air Force have that we don't know about.

And sure enough, the RQ-170 was designed by Lockheed's famous Skunk Works division, where something newer--and stealthier--is always on the drawing board.

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