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Iran hijacked US drone, says Iranian engineer

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posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 03:33 AM
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Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety. Using knowledge gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.


www.csmonitor.com... -East/2011/1215/Exclusive-Iran-hijacked-US-drone-says-Iranian-engineer


Seems these drones have a pretty big weakness, if they can be manipulated this easily? And if Iran can do this Then it would be no problem for China or Russia to do similar? So would this not render just about all drone fleets effectively useless at this moment in time?




posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 03:52 AM
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Quite unlikely.

I can't get into the details regarding the differences between civilian and military GPS systems - for this very reason, but suffice it to say that the story they successfully hijacked the drone is quite unlikely.

Further, there are several backup systems in place along with datalinking technologies that make Valve's Steam DRM scheme look pathetically soft.

It's not just an issue of confusing the GPS receiver. You have to be able to defeat the datalink, the Laser-Ring-Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (that is more accurate than the GPS), and likely several other redundant systems - not to mention fail-safes that will activate self-destructs on the cryptography and other components deemed sensitive.

This has been discussed in other threads - and the general consensus among those with experience and/or professional knowledge of the military is that Iran was able to jam and trigger one of the sequences that results in a self-destruct. The aircraft naturally assumes a downward spiral to minimize damage and permit recovery due to its design - to minimize damage in the event control and/or power are lost.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 04:03 AM
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reply to post by Aim64C
 


There was some post on ATS a few months ago about these very drones were experiencing some software (virus) problems described as key-loggers. Now, if we assume that it was a long term intelligence operation (not necessarily conducted by Iran, they might just be chosen as a test site for more advanced superpower like China or Russia) then a hack theory seems plausible IMHO.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 04:07 AM
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Because of the very small amount of damage to the drone I suspected that they might have hacked into it mid flight and forced a landing.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 04:09 AM
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I wouldnt doubt Iranian technology, it could be far more advanced than the msm would lead us to believe as they are hardly an uneducated nation and they are certainly not short of funds.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 05:07 AM
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reply to post by PURIFIER
 



There was some post on ATS a few months ago about these very drones were experiencing some software (virus) problems described as key-loggers.


Highly unlikely.

For starters, a keylogger wouldn't be of any use in this situation. The point of a keylogger is to track the keystrokes input by a user and to relay that data to some designated server, terminal, output file, etc. It is not going to give any insight into the encrypted keys (which are distributed by a separate source and kept under appropriate material handling protocols) - which would be essential in hijacking the Drone via its datalink.

For the rest - the computers used to service and fly these drones are kept completely isolated from outside networks. You would need tom-foolery or an inside operative to place malicious code into the system. This is not outside the realm of possibility - but, again, plays little role in the objective of actually hijacking a drone.

And has nothing to do with the idea this Iranian source in the article is talking about - which involves using GPS jamming technology to spoof receivers into believing they are some place other than where they are. The military uses a special GPS system that is far more difficult to spoof (we have weapons that rely on it... bad idea to let the enemies bomb us at our own expense) - borderline impossible (I say borderline because I consider no task genuinely impossible).

What, more than likely, happened was their attempt to hijack the drone and spoof its GPS and/or Datalink receivers, they triggered a fail safe self-destruct sequence (designed to eliminate sensitive components and prevent a scenario where the drone could be hijacked - better it be destroyed prematurely than be under enemy control).

reply to post by tarifa37
 



Because of the very small amount of damage to the drone I suspected that they might have hacked into it mid flight and forced a landing.


The drones, themselves, are designed to assume a downward spiral with all of their control surfaces flush and neutral. It's a pattern designed to minimize damage to the aircraft in case it loses power, control, or what-have-you. The airframe, itself, is made largely of composites and would be perfectly capable of ditching into sand or even gravel with very little in the way of damage.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 01:37 PM
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Originally posted by Aim64C
The drones, themselves, are designed to assume a downward spiral with all of their control surfaces flush and neutral. It's a pattern designed to minimize damage to the aircraft in case it loses power, control, or what-have-you. The airframe, itself, is made largely of composites and would be perfectly capable of ditching into sand or even gravel with very little in the way of damage.


I do wonder how a drone is supposed to maintain a "downward spiral" if all of their control surfaces are "flush and neutral"...

Its going to need those control surfaces to maintain the turn, otherwise its just going to go straight ahead (or wherever its going to go based on cross winds etc).

A comment made by an RAF tech with regard to their drones might be relevant here - in the case of their drones losing command control uplinks, the drone returns to its designated airfield and will maintain a holding pattern until control is reestablished. There is no scenario where control isn't reestablished, and the drones are not capable of landing or carrying out a controlled ditching themselves.



posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 02:01 PM
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reply to post by RichardPrice
 



Its going to need those control surfaces to maintain the turn, otherwise its just going to go straight ahead (or wherever its going to go based on cross winds etc).


One wing is designed slightly longer than the other, with a slightly higher lift factor, etc. There are a number of ways it can be accomplished.

It's a fail-safe mode that is present even on a number of radio controlled hobby aircraft.

Trim settings are used to adjust for the effect during flight.


A comment made by an RAF tech with regard to their drones might be relevant here


This scenario would be highly dependent upon the exact programming used by the drone operators, and the equipment within the drone. Honestly, I wouldn't use such a plan without it having a very accurate and reliable INS for the drone to return to a home base from.

That said, I'm paranoid as all holy hell - my problem with having the drone doing an RTB after losing a command signal is the possibility of the base having been compromised and is now an enemy asset. A loss of command signal should be treated with extreme caution, and I'd have the drone activate a self destruct on a hair trigger of suspicion.



posted on Dec, 18 2011 @ 02:17 PM
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So why have they only got the 1 drone then??



posted on Dec, 18 2011 @ 09:52 PM
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Originally posted by Aim64C
Quite unlikely.

I can't get into the details regarding the differences between civilian and military GPS systems - for this very reason, but suffice it to say that the story they successfully hijacked the drone is quite unlikely.
.


Actually Wired delves lightly into this. But the basic premise is that if they Iranians had the capacity to hack in or spoof military GPS signals which are coded differently than civilian GPS, then every bank etc would have been vulnerable as well. Far more damage to take down the banking system then one drone.



posted on Dec, 18 2011 @ 09:56 PM
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reply to post by Aim64C
 





What, more than likely, happened was their attempt to hijack the drone and spoof its GPS and/or Datalink receivers, they triggered a fail safe self-destruct sequence (designed to eliminate sensitive components and prevent a scenario where the drone could be hijacked - better it be destroyed prematurely than be under enemy control).


I believe that to be the most plausible scenario. Look at the footage, there is an apparent reason why the Iranians covered up the underbelly. It was not a soft landing.
edit on 18-12-2011 by yamother44 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 18 2011 @ 10:04 PM
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They already knew this crap would happen!

December 17, 2009
By Mike Mount and Elaine Quijano,
CNN
Insurgents were able to use a mass-market software program to view live feeds from U.S. military Predator drones monitoring targets in Iraq, a U.S. official indicated to CNN Thursday. The breach by Iranian-backed Shiite militants was discovered late last year, according to U.S. military and defense officials. The story was first reported in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the information, said no U.S. troops or combat missions had been compromised because of the intrusion.


If lowly insurgents were hacking this crap in 08'-09'.....how can this not have been foreseen? And as already mentioned, China and Russia could have electronics dudes there.
edit on 12/18/2011 by LordBaskettIV because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 29 2011 @ 09:34 PM
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Originally posted by Aim64C

And has nothing to do with the idea this Iranian source in the article is talking about - which involves using GPS jamming technology to spoof receivers into believing they are some place other than where they are. The military uses a special GPS system that is far more difficult to spoof (we have weapons that rely on it... bad idea to let the enemies bomb us at our own expense) - borderline impossible (I say borderline because I consider no task genuinely impossible).

What, more than likely, happened was their attempt to hijack the drone and spoof its GPS and/or Datalink receivers, they triggered a fail safe self-destruct sequence (designed to eliminate sensitive components and prevent a scenario where the drone could be hijacked - better it be destroyed prematurely than be under enemy control).


What I've heard was claimed, and adding some supposition, was that the Iranians jammed the control signal and the coded GPS, and the drone went into a return-to-base mode using ordinary GPS. Then they had transmitters which could spoof that and they walked the drone into thinking it was landing at its base when it really wasn't.

Somewhere I read something that the Iranians found a landing strip that had almost exactly the same altitude as the real base (apparently necessary), but there was still a difference and hence a hard belly landing.

Probably the drone didn't have any self-destruct because the loss-of-datalink was something that might happen---or happened---often in normal use due to all kinds of glitches. Such a self-destruct might end up costing them a huge amount of money in ruined electronics and so wouldn't activate/include it. Anything more violent than that could be dangerous to ground crew.



edit on 29-12-2011 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 9 2012 @ 03:00 AM
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first post, this is a great site cant believe I just now discovered it...


Originally posted by RichardPrice

Originally posted by Aim64C
The drones, themselves, are designed to assume a downward spiral with all of their control surfaces flush and neutral. It's a pattern designed to minimize damage to the aircraft in case it loses power, control, or what-have-you. The airframe, itself, is made largely of composites and would be perfectly capable of ditching into sand or even gravel with very little in the way of damage.


I do wonder how a drone is supposed to maintain a "downward spiral" if all of their control surfaces are "flush and neutral"...

Its going to need those control surfaces to maintain the turn, otherwise its just going to go straight ahead (or wherever its going to go based on cross winds etc).


Spins are self-sustaining (auto-rotation), even in general aviation aircraft, and *especially* in flying wings. Here is a good video of a Global hawk crashing because of such a spin: www.youtube.com...
you can also see that pretty much the only parts that broke off were the tail and nose, the RQ-170 doesn't have any protruding parts and has a much lower aspect ratio, so it'd be largely in tact (probably even more so if this was an intentional controlled spin)

this and the predators getting hacked by insurgents I think show a major flaw of UAV's vs manned planes. you cant hack a fighter pilot sitting in a cockpit. Much like guided missiles were going to be the end of the dog fight I think we'll see UAVs being used a lot, but manned fighters still being largely developed even in the far future...so I don't get off topic I'm going to stop for now until I can start a thread on this.


Originally posted by mbkennel
Probably the drone didn't have any self-destruct because the loss-of-datalink was something that might happen---or happened---often in normal use due to all kinds of glitches. Such a self-destruct might end up costing them a huge amount of money in ruined electronics and so wouldn't activate/include it. Anything more violent than that could be dangerous to ground crew.
edit on 29-12-2011 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)

the self-destruct fail safes would be hard-wired in the aircraft's motherboards, even with a loss of data they'd still be triggered ( a loss of data being one reason to self-destruct) and I think blowing something up you already have multiple copies of is cheaper than China/ Iran getting it
edit on 9-1-2012 by jetflyerX because: added second quote/ response





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