In the ongoing saga of whether or not Iran hacked our RQ-170 Sentinel drone to down it in December of 2011, Marcy has asked many questions. More recently, Iran announced last December that they had decoded all of the data from that drone and from the less sophisticated ScanEagle they had just claimed to have captured, which prompted more questions on the RQ-170′s mission before it came down. Today, Iran is releasing video and stills that it claims to have come from the decrypted imagery carried on the RQ-170.
Here is PressTV’s description of the video:
Iran has for the first time released decoded video recordings obtained from a US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone downed and captured by the Islamic Republic in December 2011.
The recordings have been made by the drone’s underbelly camera, and include views from the area surrounding the Kandahar base as the drone is about to land.
So what kind of camera is in the underbelly of an RQ-170? The website airforce-technology.com has a profile of the RQ-170 that includes these snippets:
Flying at an altitude of 50,000ft, the RQ-170 can offer its operators with real time intelligence data by executing surveillance and reconnaissance operations over a large area.
An electro-optic camera was incorporated beneath the front fuselage section to seize the real time imagery or videos of the battlefield it is surveying.
Okay, then. What are the capabilities of an electro-optic camera? Here is NASA on that question, on a web page that includes a photo of what looks like the nose of a different type of drone:
The Electro-Optic Camera (EOC) System is an experimental sensor under development by the High Altitude Missions Branch at NASA Ames Research Center. The system captures high resolution digitized images from a solid-state array and stores the imagery on magnetic tape. The EOC will acquire imagery along a twelve mile (20 km) swath width at pixel resolution of thirty-two feet (10 m) in three pre-selectable channels of data over a spectral range of 400 to 900 microns. The camera also tilts fore and aft automatically for bi-directional reflectance measurements and will be equipped with a rotating polarizer.
An electro-optic camera can fly at 50,000 feet with a resolution of 32 feet at ground level. And yet, we see this in one of the stills Mehr News put up:
There simply is no way that the video and stills Iran has released have the quality that an electro-optic camera would produce even though Iran claims their images came from the underbelly camera and the available literature says that camera should be an elecro-optic one. I’m no expert in encryption and decryption of images, so unless this low image quality is a strange result of only partial success in the decryption process, I think we have to call bullshit on Iran’s claims here. [It appears they also could use some coaching on the proper spelling of "aerial".] The only other explanation would be if a second, lower resolution camera also is present as a backup to the electro-optic system, but there is no way this could be the imagery that the US would be collecting for intelligence gathering purposes.
Update: It seems that the New York Times and experts they cite differ with me (as does PJ Evans in comments below) on the authenticity of the imagery released by Iran.
Update 2: This article suggests the latest sensors have much better resolution than the 10 meters at 50,000 feet number quoted above. It cites six inches at 15,000 feet. And with the RQ-170 being a newly developed drone, one would expect it to have the best available imaging.
Iran is claiming once again to have captured a US drone. The YouTube above consists of a boring eleven minutes broadcast by PressTV of Iranian military types doing a poor impression of Vanna White running their hands over what is claimed to be a US ScanEagle drone. If true, this would be the second drone captured by Iran in just over a year. Early last December, Iran first claimed to have shot down and then changed their wording to claiming to have “brought” down a much larger RQ-170 Sentinel drone, prompting the question of whether Iran managed to hack the drone.
There has been considerable additional drone action of late regarding Iran, with Iran firing on a Predator drone in November over the Gulf (perhaps in Iranian airspace, perhaps not). Iran then said later in November that they were reporting the US to the UN for violating Iranian airspace at least 8 times during October, presumably with drones.
Interestingly, it appears that Iran is claiming once again to have hacked this drone. From Fars News Agency:
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi announced that his forces hunted a US Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.
The UAV which had conducted several reconnaissance flights over the Persian Gulf general zone in the past few days was caught and brought under control by air defense units and control systems of the IRGC Navy.
We are now in the denial phase of the US response to this incident. The next bit in the Fars News article sets it up:
The IRGC navy commander announced that the haunted [sic] UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that “such drones are usually launched from large warships.”
Seizing on this bit, the US has quickly trotted out a US Navy spokesman to say that all ScanEagles are accounted for and none are missing. This same article also suggests that other countries in the region have ScanEagles and posits that Iran may have salvaged a ScanEagle that went down in the Gulf long ago.
[Heh. I missed the Fars typo saying the drone was "haunted" instead of "hunted" on my first several readings. That puts an entirely different spin on the situation...]
Interstingly, at the end, the AP article does get around to pointing out that the US eventually changed its story on the RQ-170 [and see the update below the fold]: Continue reading
After Iran’s Fars News Agency was fooled last month by an article in The Onion, you might think Iran’s press would be a bit more careful in what it chooses to publish, but PressTV today seems to have topped “rural white American voters prefer Ahmadinejad over Obama” by choosing to publish accusations that British and Israeli scientists are hard at work developing a version of the SARS virus that attacks only Arabs.
The article opens with its wild charge:
British and Zionist health experts are working on a SARS-like race-specific bio-weapon, which could be capable of creating a global threat through triggering a massive ethnic cleansing, it has been claimed.
The claim was made following the identification by the World Health Organization (WHO) of a new SARS-like race-specific virus that targets people of Middle Eastern decent. [sic] The original SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) resulted in the death of numerous people in Hong Kong.
PressTV is assigning remarkable power to these scientists, because the accusation is based on a new virus that has been seen only in a grand total of two cases, with the first being in June. The claim that the virus is “race-specific” appears to come from the WHO description of the virus, but in fact PressTV and the accusers miss a key part of the description:
travel to or residence in an area where infection with novel coronavirus has recently been reported or where transmission could have occurred;*
The asterisk is linked to:
* Currently, these areas would include only Qatar and Saudi Arabia (as of 29 September 2012).
The two known cases involve residents of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but the accusation that this virus has been magically engineered to be race-specific completely overlooks that WHO would consider this virus to be involved for any person of any race who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia or Qatar and displayed the other diagnostic criteria they describe.
It appears that PressTV is crediting “intelligence sources” for the accusations. The article continues:
The Zionist-led Israeli regime has been seeking to spot specific genes carried by human of Arab decent in an attempt to develop a race-specific bio-weapon that could covertly be exposed to Arab populations in order to commit a massive ethnic cleansing whenever necessary.
Anonymous intelligence sources have also claimed that work is underway to create genetically modified bacterium/virus as a bio-weapon which could be deployed through the air or water supply.
According to intelligence sources Israeli Defense, working with a British defense apparatus at Porton Down, is seeking to produce this race-specific bio-weapon.
The latest news from WHO puts even more of a damper on claims that this virus is a new super biological weapon:
WHO has continued to monitor the situation. No additional confirmed cases have been reported and there is no evidence so far of person to person transmission of the novel coronavirus.
In order for the virus to achieve “massive ethnic cleansing” it would be necessary for it to spread from person to person quickly and efficiently before killing those infected. Instead, the two known cases of the virus have been isolated, with no known persons with whom the infected people came into contact developing symptoms of the disease.
Should US scientists consider it an insult that they were not included in the conspiracy theory?