Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Beast of Kandahar: Secret Stealth Drone Spied on Bin Laden

Via (Danger Room) -

Two years ago, pictures leaked of a previously unknown, bat-winged drone operating out of Afghanistan’s Kandahar airport. Speculation spiked about the mission of the mysterious aircraft, instantly nicknamed “the Beast of Kandahar” by secret plane-spotter extraordinaire Bill Sweetman.

The drone’s smooth, curved shape meant it was stealthy — hard for radars to spot. But the Taliban didn’t have any radars. So what was the Beast doing?

Some suggested that it might be snooping on Iran’s nuclear program. Others thought the drone (officially known as the RQ-170 Sentinel) might be the test bed for a new, microwave weapon to fry enemy electronics or a next-gen jammer to screw with enemy communications. The drone was even spotted over Korea; maybe it was watching missile launches while avoiding the prying eyes of our foes in Pyonyang?

Turns out, the Beast wasn’t dodging enemy radars, at least not lately. It was avoiding detection by our putative allies in Pakistan, as it gathered intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

The CIA used the drone to “fly dozens of secret missions deep into Pakistani airspace and monitor the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed,” according to the Washington Post.


The Beast never spotted bin Laden directly. But “the agency concluded after months of watching the complex that the figure frequently seen pacing back and forth was probably the al-Qaida chief,” according to the paper. The drone, which is believed to have a 48-foot wingspan and a gross takeoff wright of 2700 pounds, also had eavesdropping equipment. That allowed American operatives to listen up, in case the Pakistanis caught wind of the secret aircraft spying overhead.


Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel

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