RQ-170 Sentinel Stealth drones can be flown out of Crimea.


French language website Zone Militaire It was among the first to report on The document in questionThat’s it Among those released online Massachusetts Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Jack Douglas Teixeira. Overall, it provides details of US and NATO air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) activity in the Black Sea region between September 2022 and February 2023. In addition to information on RQ-170 flights during that time frame, the information is provided at US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk and RQ-9 Reaper drone type, as well as activities related to the British RC-135W Rivet joints, the French Mirage 2000s, and the NATO Global Hacks. France’s use of local Mirage 2000 fighter jets in the ISR role Possession of foreign intelligence padsdoes not seem to have been revealed before now.

Although it does not specifically mention the targets of these flights, Russian forces in Ukraine or Russia, the accompanying map shows flight paths from the occupied Crimean peninsula. There is no hint one way or the other of any actual overflights in any of the planes mentioned in the Ukrainian or Russian documents. However, even before the Russian military launches an all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, significant progress has been made in US and European aerial ISR activity, as seen in the tweet below. The US government has not given away secrets. Broad intelligence sharing Even with its Ukrainian partners.

It is important to note that War zone He could not reliably and independently verify the authenticity of the document that mentioned the RQ-170 flights. Teixeira at least shed some material It looks like it was done by a doctor, as well as. If the ISR document is legitimate, it is not yet known if the RQ-170 flights are still in the region or from where they are directed.

In response to questions about the document, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force in Europe (USAFE), the service’s highest command in the region, said: “As a matter of policy and operational security, we do not comment on operational details of ISR assets.” . “However, regular ISR flights support a variety of U.S. national, allied and allied objectives.”

War zone He also contacted the Ministry of Defense. The document in question was posted as prepared in the Joint Staff Office of the main ISR office, also known as J-32.

All that being said, there are good reasons for the US military to employ RQ-170s in this context, even to conduct ISR missions over the Black Sea in international airspace. It is understood that the Air Force has 20 to 30 of these drones. The service confirmed that two units, the 30th and 44th Reconnaissance Squadrons, would operate them. Their main base of operations remains at Chris Air Force Base in Nevada, but other locations have hosted them at least in the past.

An RQ-170 Sentinel in test configuration was seen flying from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 2017. Matthew C. Hartman

A stealth aircraft like the RQ-170 provides a means of gathering information with a low probability of detection. Non-stealth ISR aircraft are easier to detect and track an adversary, and based on intelligence they can attempt to take more rapid actions to hide or alter their movements.

Thus, RQ-170s can gather more accurate information about enemy force positions, operational procedures, and other activities. Sentinels are understood to be capable of handling multiple sensors, including an electronically scanned array radar with pinhole imaging and ground-moving target designation capabilities, an electro-optical sensor ball and electronic intelligence suites.

Sentinels are not completely invisible to radar – no stealth aircraft is – but their capabilities in this regard allow them to fly to the targets they are tasked with tracking. This can further improve the quality of the information collected and the ability to stay there without being detected provides the aforementioned different level of knowledge.

The stealth features of the RQ-170s help protect the drones from any enemy response. Before launching its all-out invasion of Ukraine, Russia had already significantly strengthened its air defense capabilities, including additional long-range S-300 and S-400 air-to-air missile systems with a robust radar in Crimea.

A broader shift in the calculus of risk in the region may have prompted the deployment of the RQ-170s. The time frame in the leaked document corresponds to an incident in September 2022 with the Russian Su-27 Flanker super jets and the British RC-135W. Other leaked Teixeira documents, along with additional secondary reports, claim that one of the Russian pilots was active. In the misunderstanding, he tried to hit the rivet joint but luckily failed. It is said that missile malfunction has saved the day as you can get more information on this matter.

The loss of a non-stealth Air Force MQ-9 after it was shot down by a Russian Su-27 in March underscores the dire situation still in the region. Two Russian flankers intercepted the Reaper and made several close passes, including some that dropped fuel on the drone before the collision. You can read more about that incident, which the US military described as “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.”

Interestingly, the map in the document marked “normal” flight paths for both the US Air Force and NATO Global Hawks, the British Rivet Joints, and the French Mirage, but not for the RQ-170 or MQ-9. There is a line simply labeled “SECDEF Directed Standoff,” which may refer to the types of ISR conducted by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Given the potential risk of RQ-170 flights over the Black Sea, potentially losing sensitive assets in a region where the Russians could return, the need for a defense-level license would certainly make sense. Russian officials said To bring sensitive equipment from the Reaper that descended on the region in March, despite repeated insistence by the US military. A threat to operational safety They are limited from this loss.

War zone He previously reported on risk assessment procedures related to the Sentinel deployment, based on information found in declassified records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. One of those drones was fatally shot down in Iran in 2011. Russia and China, however, were confident that they could closely inspect the intact RQ-170.

In the year The RQ-170, which crashed in Iran in 2011, is now on display in that country. Iranian state media

That SECDEF approval may be required for at least some MQ-9 variants. However, Reapers have been known to be employed on more sensitive missions, sometimes under the US military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This could reflect improving the standoff capability of these drones to help ensure the Air Force’s continued support for operations in high-threat areas.

Regardless, the use of the RQ-170 for ISR missions over the Black Sea is still a more interesting revelation than the leaked document. The list of places where Sentinels are known to have been used in the past is short: in support of the invasion of Iran that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, on the Korean peninsula and in the western Pacific. When flying from Guam.

If the information in the leaked document is correct, flights in the Black Sea can now be added to the operational history of the RQ-170s, which is still in the shadows.

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