The US Air Force today confirmed that it is using a drone named the RQ-170 Sentinel, in Afghanistan. The stealthy unmanned aircraft system is developed by the Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, the same company that developed the F-117 Stealth Fighter. However, the RQ-170 looks like a scaled down version of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. The USAF confirms that the RQ-170 Sentinel is in development, and is expected “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward-deployed combat forces”, according to a statement released on 4 December.
This announcement comes after a series of images of a jet-powered, stealthy aircraft have appeared on the internet last April, including a clear shot of the aircraft that circulated widely in early December. Besides describing the RQ-170 as stealthy, the USAF released no further technical information about its new UAV, or any photos. This plane has also been rumored to be called the “Beast of Kandahar”. The main purpose of the drone has been reported to be providing aerial and strategic information to the ground forces battling in Afghanistan. “RQ” represents that the aircraft is unmanned and unarmed, which is different from other drones named with “MQ” which are loaded with laser guided weapons.
The aviation authorities coined the name of the aircraft as “Beast of Kandahar” after its 2007 pictures were released which showed the aircraft in action in Afghanistan. The pictures gave the description of an aircraft that resembles a drone that has the ability to cheat radar and has the shape which resembles that of a stealth aircraft. Several aviation journals have made speculations about this mysterious aircraft and have published its pictures. The presence of “Beast of Kandahar” in the region has questioned why the U.S. is using such technology in a warzone where there are no radar systems available to militants. This has pointed towards the possible us of the drone over Iran and Pakistan. According to reports, the U.S. air force has targeted many terrorists in Pakistan with the help of Predators and Reaper drones.