The secret stealth Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted in Nevada. The RQ-170 Sentinel is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Lockheed Martin and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
According to DefenseBlog, RQ-170s have been reported to have operated in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It has been confirmed that the UAVs have operated over Pakistan and Iran; operations over Pakistan included sorties that collected intelligence before and during the operation which led to the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
The RQ-170 Sentinel was developed by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (also known as Skunk Works) as a stealth Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed for intelligence gathering purposes. The UAV can capture real-time imagery of the battlefield and transfer the data to the ground control station (GCS) through a line of sight (LOS) communication data link.
Flying at an altitude of 50,000ft, the RQ-170 can offer its operators with real time intelligence data by executing surveillance and reconnaissance operations over a large area. The 27.43m wide and 1.82m high aerial vehicle was designed to execute intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition (ISTAR) and electronic warfare missions over a target area. The Sentinel features bat-shaped wings, blended fuselage, pointed nose and tricycle type landing gear.
An electro-optic camera was incorporated beneath the front fuselage section to seize the real time imagery or videos of the battlefield it is surveying. A direction satellite communication antenna enables communication between the vehicle and control station.
The RQ-170 can be controlled either manually from the GCS or through autonomous mode. An automatic launch and recovery (ALR) system facilitates the aircraft to land safely when communication with the control station fails. An electro-optic and infra-red sensors are incorporated in the upper surface of the RQ-170 wings. The RQ-170 Sentinel is fitted with an active electronically scanned array radar, synthetic aperture radar and signal intelligence in its belly fairings.