Yesterday saw several developments in response to the P5+1 talks with Iran ending over the weekend with no new date announced for the next round of talks. AP launched into a discussion of Congress enacting even more sanctions against Iran, although considerable gyrations are needed to identify just what else we could possibly limit after already enacting new sanctions four times since 2010. There also was very little consideration of the damage already done to Iranian citizens. In addition, the video above appeared in articles yesterday for both Wired’s Danger Room and the New York Times announcing a new laser weapon. The laser is said to be able to shoot down drones and to pierce light watercraft, and so it will be deployed in the Persian Gulf. But not until 2014. Maybe that extra time will allow the US to make sure the Filipino Monkey can’t cause any mischief when the weapon is deployed. I’m guessing that the Times is onto something with their observation that the “Pentagon has a long history of grossly inflating claims for its experimental weapons”, especially since the Pentagon’s video, while over three and a half minutes long, has only about a minute and fifteen seconds of real-life footage, with the rest consisting of computer animation. Even Iran’s Fars News has read the accompanying report linked in the Times article where we learn of the limitation of laser weapons:
The laser does, however, have its drawbacks.
Testing has revealed it is disrupted by bad weather: Rain and clouds can scatter the beam, as can smoke, sand and dust.
In addition, due to the nature of the laser beam, these weapons are necessarily “line of sight” weapons, meaning they cannot attack targets that are beyond the horizon in the way that ballistic missiles can. Also, the report points out the issue of “blooming” where the laser beam heats up the surrounding air, making targeting difficult for an object coming straight at the weapon. A bit of what could well be that effect is seen in the live action video, where the path of the laser beam as it hits the target becomes visible just as the target is beginning to burn.
The release of an “official” video announcing the weapon, but relying so extensively on computer animation brings to mind the ridiculous cartoon that George Jahn published during previous discussions of the disputed Parchin complex and Benjamin Netanyahu’s bomb cartoon he used at the UN. When trying to convince the world of the effectiveness of a weapon of ours or the danger of a technology held by an adversary, reliance on cartoons does not instill a high degree of confidence in those who are evaluating the argument.
Today, Iran observed their National Day of Nuclear Technology which commemorates their announcement in 2006 of “completing the nuclear fuel production cycle at laboratory scale”. Iran discussed both the development of new radiomedicines and expansion of uranium mining, but Reuters found only the uranium mining to be worth mentioning. That’s okay, though. It’s not like there is a history of bad things going on when discussing yellowcake and foreign WMD. Oh. Wait.
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