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Kandahar's Loch Ness monster has been spotted again. This time an actual photo of the beast was published by French journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet, who writes for the Liberation newspaper, on his Secret Defense blog. We last saw the mystery Kandahar aircraft in a drawing by Shephard's Unmanned Vehicles and a very grainy photo published by Air & Cosmos.
The new photo offers a slightly better view of the nose. Is that a canopy screen above the nose? I wondered in May if this might actually be a manned aircraft, even if it was first sighted on UV.com. If there is a cockpit, where is the air intake for the engine? The half-moon exhaust pipe strikingly resembles the P175 Polecat, a Skunk Works product.
Regardless of how it is piloted, the Kandahar aircraft's existence raises several existential questions: What does it do? Why do you need a stealthy-looking aircraft to spy on Al Qaeda and the Taliban? What's all the secrecy about? While I'm asking, can somebody please get a head-on picture?
Originally posted by Shadowhawk
I would say that the two bulges on either side are intakes.
The taxiway light in the background cannot be used to measure scale. It is too far away and the relative size is distorted by forced perspective, an artifact of using a telephoto lens.
What is this thing, photographed recently on the basis of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan? A drone and certainly new generation at that. According to testimony, the little craft out and returned immediately a U.S. warehouse. For the rest, mystery!
Online Magazine Unmanned Vehicles evoked in April a "mystery UAVs operating in Afghanistan", a mysterious drone operating in Afghanistan. It resembles the P175 Polecat Lockheed Martin, but it would be another model UCAV U.S., even if some consider it to be a British model. Air and Cosmos had mentioned such a secret program (black program).
he photo confirms that the previous artists' impressions were largely accurate. The jet has long, slender outer wings, spanning as much as 80 feet, mated to a stouter, deeper centerbody with a pointed nose. One important detail: the overwing fairings are not B-2-like inlets, but cover some kind of equipment - satcoms on one side, perhaps, and a sensor on the other.
The most likely provenance of the airframe is Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, and it is very likely to be associated with the Desert Prowler program - unearthed by historian Peter Merlin and "patchologist" Trevor Paglen. More background here, but it should be noted that Dave Fulghum reported in June 2001 on a plan to acquire 12-24 high altitude, stealthy UAVs. The effort had gathered pace after a US EP-3 SIGINT aircraft was forced to land in China in April, and went further underground after 9/11. It's believed that the first of a small batch of aircraft flew in late 2005 and were operational in Afghanistan in 2007 (where this photo was probably taken.)
Despite superficial similarity the Desert Prowler is not an immediate relative of the Polecat technology demonstrator tested in 2006. The latter incorporated advanced aerodynamic and structural features for a future long-range, very high-altitude UAV, while Desert Prowler is more conservative.
Perhaps the biggest mystery, though, is what the birds were doing in Kandahar. Why use a stealth aircraft against an adversary that doesn't have radar? And if it was part of some Secret Squirrel operation against the Taliban, what in the blue blazes was it doing outdoors in daylight?
Gotcha! Desert Prowler Unveiled
Posted by Bill Sweetman at 12/1/2009 10:41 AM CST
The photo confirms that the previous artists' impressions were largely accurate. The jet has long, slender outer wings, spanning as much as 80 feet, mated to a stouter, deeper centerbody with a pointed nose.
Be ast of Kandahar, the classified stealth UAV