Sunday Dec 11, 201109:52 PM GMT
RQ-170 downing similar to U-2 incident
Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:29PM
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The photo shows a U-2 aircraft similar to the one that the Soviet Union downed during the Cold War on May 1, 1960.
Historians and foreign policy experts have compared Iran's capture of the RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone bristling with advanced spy technology to the Soviet Union's downing of an American U-2 spy plane during the Cold War.

"When I first heard about the drone, my first thought was thank goodness there wasn't a pilot in it," the Associated Press quoted Francis Gary Powers, founder of the Cold War Museum, as saying.

He added, "They were both on intelligence-gathering missions. They were both doing photo reconnaissance. They were both supporting the US government's intelligence-gathering to find out intelligence about our adversaries."

Powers, the son of the U-2 pilot, noted, “The difference this time was that there are no family members that have to be notified; there's no prisoner in a foreign country."

Many believe that that Iran's recovery of the American RQ-170 spy drone has shed light on covert operations against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the US government.

"It's beginning to look like there's a thinly veiled, increasingly violent, global cloak-and-dagger game afoot," Thomas Donnelly, a former US government official and military expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said.

Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser under President George W. Bush, said, “The covert operations in play are much bigger than people appreciate. But, the US needs to be using everything it can."

The Soviet Union's 1960 downing of the U-2 spy plane shocked US military planners, who thought the advanced aircraft flew too high to be hit by a Soviet missile.

Likewise, Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit on December 4 downed with minimum damage the US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which was flying over the eastern city of Kashmar, some 225km (140 miles) from the Afghan border.

Iran has announced that it intends to carry out reverse engineering on the captured RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft, which is also known as the Beast of Kandahar, and is similar in design to a US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber.

On December 6, two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the drone was part of a CIA reconnaissance mission, involving the US intelligence community stationed in Afghanistan.

They claimed the reconnaissance capability of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone enabled it to gather information from inside Iran by flying along Afghanistan's border with the Islamic Republic.

The RQ-170 is an unmanned stealth aircraft designed and developed by the Lockheed Martin Company.

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaei on December 8 called on the world body to condemn US aggressive moves against the Islamic Republic with respect to the reconnaissance drone that violated the Iranian airspace.

He made the plea in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz a-Nasser, and Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador who holds the rotating Security Council presidency for December.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry has summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests in the country, and the Afghan ambassador to condemn the US violation of Iranian airspace.

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