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FARS, one of Iran's official news agencies, claims the country has shot down a U.S. RQ-170 stealthy unmanned aircraft. [Read Aviation Week's story here.]The FARS story, here, has little detail and no proof to indicate that it was an RQ-170, which is also known to some as the Beast of Kandahar where it was first spotted. IRNA, the other Iranian agency, has its brief report here. There have been various theories on the role of the RQ-170 since it was seen operating in Afghanistan; one has been that it was flying over Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure to provide the U.S. early warning if the country's nuclear weapons stockpile is at risk. Iran has long been viewed as the other likely target of the surveillance operation.NATO has issued this statement about the loss of a UAV. The unmanned aircraft type was not identified.There are a lot of questions to sort through if one assumes it was the RQ-170 and Iran actually shot down the air vehicle. Was the air vehicle lost owing to a tactical error in how it was employed, as was the case with the F-117 shootdown during the Kosovo air war? Was the air vehicle actually tracked by Iranian air defenses, or did it fall victim to a barrage firing with a "lucky shot" taking down the asset? Depending on what is learned, it could accelerate the view that even unmanned aircraft will require electronic self-protection subsystems to protect them or, in extreme cases, demand standoff jamming support when undertaking some of the most challenging missions.
ar99, unmanned, Iran
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