The big news last week was Iran shooting down an American Drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Our government claims that it was flying in international airspace and Iran says it was in their airspace. Subsequently our President authorized and then cancelled a retaliatory strike against Iran. I wasn’t paying too much attention the drone itself until I read in the news that it cost $190 million (other sources are saying $220 million), and it had a wingspan bigger than that of the Boeing 747 airliner (that turned out to be an untrue claim.)
So using my friend Mr. Google I checked the plane out. It has a wingspan of 130 feet according this US Air Force Fact Sheet and has achieved a flight time of 34 hours. It is cram packed with all sorts of surveillance and electronics gear and has no offensive capability. They can fly at 60,000 feet at a leisurely 310 knots and were considered hard to down with anti-aircraft missiles but not impossible.
We have had them operational since 2011 and we have about 30 or so in our fleet. (Or at least we did until last week.)
So anyway, I am glad that our President called off the strike although it kind of puts us in a weak position now. Beyond that though I found out about this amazing aircraft that gives us some amazing capability. I’d love to be able to see one of these airplanes in real life.
Interestingly, according to this Wired article, Iran has attacked American drones before causing one to crash in Yemen and the other escaped. They were the MQ-9 Reaper Drones which according the Air Force are designed for dynamic execution attacks and surveillance. In 2011 Iran downed an RQ 170 Sentinel Surveillance Drone. According the Wired article, Iran reverse engineered the Sentinel and deployed their own version which doesn’t make me too happy.