Sentinel Down

And yet again, after leaving behind a cutting edge stealth helicopter during the bin Laden raid, the U.S. conducts another, involuntary, state-of-the-art military technology transfer to the enemy.

Iran’s capture of US drone shines light on spy mission, but may reveal little

The Iranian capture of a high-tech, stealth U.S. drone shines a light on the American spying mission there, but probably doesn’t tell Tehran much that it didn’t already know, a senior U.S. official said.

The RQ-170 Sentinel was providing surveillance over Iran and didn’t just accidentally wander away from the Afghanistan border region, as first suggested. The official said Wednesday that the Iranians will no doubt be able to tell where the aircraft flew. A bigger U.S. concern, the official said, was that the Iranians are likely to share or sell whatever they have recovered of the aircraft to the Chinese, Russians or others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the mission.

Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels — which are used both by the military and the CIA for classified surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.

. . .

U.S. officials said that while they have enough information to confirm that Iran does have the wreckage, they said they are not sure what the Iranians will be able to glean technologically from what they found. It is unlikely that Iran would be able to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

See also:
US admits downed drone spied on Iran
Iran says US spy drone was flying deep inside its airspace when it was downed
Malfunction likely put U.S. drone in Iranian hands
Iran Probably Did Capture a Secret U.S. Drone
U.S. Military Sources: Iran Has Missing U.S. Drone
Drone that crashed in Iran may give away U.S. secrets
China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone
Sentinel unmanned drone lost in Iran among US most valuable warfare assets
Drone belonged to CIA, officials say
Downed drone was on CIA mission
Officials: Drone downed in Iran on CIA mission
Drone Lost in Iran Was Joint CIA-Military Reconnaissance Plane
Iran’s downing of U.S. drone rattles Washington
US ‘concerned’ over drone lost near Iran border
Experts: Iran capture of stealth drone no worry
US considered missions to destroy RQ-170 Sentinel drone lost in Iran
Spy drone may provide little help to Iran
U.S. debated sending commandos into Iran to recover drone
U.S. Made Covert Plan to Retrieve Iran Drone
Iran: The Stealth War Continues
Drone Drama Proves Iran Is Ready to Rumble
Stealth drone highlights tougher U.S. strategy on Iran
U.S. drones have been spying on Iran for years

The good news is that we seem to be paying close attention to what Iran is up to, have been for years, and can penetrate Iranian airspace with near impunity. These past and, hopefully, ongoing intelligence gathering and surveillance activities should help provide a detailed blueprint for when push comes to shove and Iran has to be dealt with militarily, which is sure to eventually become a necessity.

/that said, it’s a total unforced strategic error to just let Iran have this advanced technology drone, to share with or sell to other potential enemies of the United States, would it have killed us, if we didn’t want to risk lives to recover the Sentinel, to at least launch an airstrike package to obliterate the wreckage?

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Melior Diabolus Quem Scies

On top of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket, the largest rocket ever launched from the West Coast, the NRO’s NROL-49 spy satellite is off to orbit on a classified “national security” mission.

Massive Rocket Blasts Off on Probable Spy Mission

The largest rocket ever to blast off from the West Coast launched into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday afternoon.

The most powerful launch rocket in the U.S., the Delta IV Heavy, took off a little after 1 p.m. Pacific Time carrying a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite called NROL-49.

“This launch marks a significant milestone in our nation’s space capability,” launch director Lt. Col. Brady Hauboldt said in a press release. “We’ve really restored a national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range… This extends our ability to cost-effectively deliver payloads of all sizes and compliments.”

According to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the organization that is running the launch for NRO, “this launch supports the military’s national defense mission.” However, that’s about all of the information that has been publicly disclosed about the payload.

See also:
First Delta IV Heavy launches from Vandenberg
Vandenberg rocket: largest American rocket blasted off today on West Coast
Launch of giant rocket in Southern California heard for miles
23-story rocket launches U.S. spy satellite
Delta IV rocket launches from Vandenberg
First Delta IV Heavy blasts off from Vandenberg
New Spy Satellite Blasts Off on Secret Mission
Vandenberg launches Delta IV Heavy rocket
California: Rocket Launches With Secret Payload
Secret payload launched on largest West Coast rocket
Boeing: Delta – Delta IV Launch Vehicles
Delta IV
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Vandenberg Air Force Base
National Reconnaissance Office
National Reconnaissance Office

And, that’s about it. Except that it’s supposedly an imaging satellite, there’s not much use in speculating further. I’m just happy that it made it to orbit safely, our taxpayer dollars much better spent than on Obamacare.

/pretty pictures, NROL-49