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Iranian Military Says It's Copying US Drone 350

Posted by timothy
from the so-it's-sort-of-a-buzzing-noise dept.
New submitter skipkent writes "Iran's military has started to build a copy of a U.S. surveillance drone captured last year after breaking the software encryption, Iranian media reported on Sunday. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, said engineers were in the final stages of decoding data from the Sentinel aircraft, which came down in December near the Afghan border, Mehr news agency reported."
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Iranian Military Says It's Copying US Drone

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:35PM (#39763423)

    #1 I doubt it .....
    #2 who is running things over there, Dr. Evil ?
    #3 In the extremely unlikely event that they somehow figured it all out - why on earth would you tell everyone ?

  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:41PM (#39763471) Journal
    In a way, they will. China will no doubt show up with this first.
  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:49PM (#39763541)

    #3 In the extremely unlikely event that they somehow figured it all out - why on earth would you tell everyone ?

    It increases status, and is a deterrent. Win on all sides.

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:51PM (#39763555)
    Why? Not all of them live in mud huts... Underestimating the enemy is dangerous.
  • by JosephTX (2521572) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:54PM (#39763593)

    Why, because only Americans are ingenious enough to be engineers? Just because it's beyond your understanding doesn't mean it's beyond someone else's even if they are from a country you seem to judgmentally believe can't have smart people.

    And good for them. What were we even doing sending drones into that country in the first place? Because "they're making nukes"? Even if Iran made a nuclear bomb, that would do nothing more than.. put them on equal footing with every country surrounding them who also has a nuclear bomb (most of which got theirs directly or indirectly from us). Frankly, any country spending $600 billion/year on the military doesn't get to cry when other people reverse-engineer the technology we're using to push them around.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:58PM (#39763625)
    While Dubya was in office in the U.S., Iran had a President named Mohammed Khatami. Unlike Ahmedinejad, Khatami was a moderate cleric in favor of womens' rights, political reforms, greater freedoms for Iranians, and other moderate ideals. Khatami also was no opposed to political cooperation with the United States, or at least the restoration of diplomatic relations. Bush could easily have reached out a (limited) hand of friendship, and Khatami might very well have shaken it. Relations between Iran and the U.S. could have improved markedly. What happened instead? Bush's Neocon advisers wanted no cooperation/relationship whatosever to develop with Iran. They wanted to maintain Iran's status as an "Enemy of the United States" (perhaps because Israel was also adamant that things be so, and Iran stay politically isolated). So Dubya never reached out to Khatami politically, and actually did the diametric opposite: Iran was included in post 9/11 America's new, and somewhat stupid concept of a "Axis of Evil" that's messing up everything for everyone. No relationship between the U.S. and Iran whatsoever flourished as a result. Not even a limited one. And what happened to Khatami? The moderate Iran President was eventually overruled by Iran's religious hardliners for being too "moderate" or "modern", and his post went to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. The window of opportunity for improving relations between Iran and the U.S./West to some degree was there. But the Neocons wanted Iran to stay on the "Enemies of the U.S." list, and did their best to ensure that no rapprochement with Iran would take place. -------- That brings us to today. Iran and the U.S. are currently enemies. Neither side sees any value in engaging in serious talks or toning down the jingoistic rhetoric. The Iran situation could, at any point, turn into another "Hot War" (Israel in particular seems to like that idea a lot). And all this because Dubya's advisers told him not to shake Khatami's hand. The situation could have been very, very different if the West had engaged in even "limited relations" with Khatami's vision of a more moderate Iran.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:04PM (#39763663)

    I have worked for a number of companies that thought their employees were so much smarter than everyone else that no one could possibly understand their code by disassembling it. That's wrong.

    In this particular game, yeah, they'd be right if they were talking U.S. programmers whose experience was Java, but people who had to deal with old hardware where memory locations mattered, no. I sometimes wonder at Apple folks who believe no one but them understands ARM assembly. I know at least three Russian programmers personally who can quote hex codes for ARM instructions for pretty much everything you'd want to do. I am guessing I am not connected enough to know them all.

    People in the third world are at a significant advantage. They deal with the hardware and know what the hell they are doing. I personally blame the change in accreditation standards that caused U.S. people to concentrate on being rather than doing. Theory is great until you have to engage in total war.

    I personally expect a wave of smart people to wash over the U.S. any time soon. The only question is whether they will have U.S. visas or if they will be employed by a foreign power.

    -- Terry

    -- Terry

  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zackbass (457384) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:06PM (#39763673)

    That strikes more at the heart of the issue here than you may realize. The actual aircraft sitting in their hands is much closer to a compiled binary than source.
    You can poke at it, run it, look inside and try to reverse engineer it, but the real secret sauce that goes into making drones like this is the design/manufacturing techniques and massive high tech industrial base that are necessary to produce the components. The aircraft's engine isn't likely going to give up the secrets of directional crystal growth that go into manufacturing the turbine blades, and the camera's CCD isn't likely to yield the secrets of semiconductor fabrication necessary to produce another one.

  • For what purpose? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <> on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:06PM (#39763675) Homepage

    Drones over Israel? Over the US?

    I'd love to see either of those things happen, just to watch the reaction. The US seems to think it is fine to send spy drones over Iran, so presumably it's just fair game to send them over the mainland US too.

    The US has spy satellites watching every corner of the earth, presumably the collective EU and China do too, Japan has some... Naturally Iran will be putting its own up at some point, and North Korea will too eventually. Fair's fair, right?

  • Copy a copy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenJeremy (181303) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:10PM (#39763707)

    They didn't capture a drone intact, they displayed a mockup, and a bad one at that.

    All this talk about creating their own drone is more propaganda to prop up the Iranian government's "rep" in the middle east among Islamic countries, who pretty much buy everything Iran's news agencies pump out, clonebrush photoshops, crappy models and all.

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:23PM (#39763835)

    The most I can see them doing is build a mockup that looks like it, showing it flying, and then the entire world concluding, "OMG, they copied the US drone!!!111" — except that it won't contain any of the systems and technology aboard the RQ-170.

    Would be a great propaganda victory for Iran, though. Which is exactly the sort of thing they're looking for. Iran's playing up the drone story again, this week saying that Russia and China are aggressively seeking information about it [], and then two days later making this "announcement"? With Iran claiming it used a force field and "advanced space technology" to down the drone [] (and no, this isn't simply a failure of the translation), nothing is too surprising.

    Of course, US drones have been flying over Iran for years [], and drones are still flying over Iran after the RQ-170 incident [].

    Interestingly, as the Western press and pundits hyperventilated over the loss of the drone, Iran's state-controlled media and spokesmen repeatedly changed and finessed their story to fit with the most panicked narratives of "what might have happened".

    Logic would dictate that the drone simply malfunctioned and crashed, or at absolute MOST had its control link jammed — a known vulnerability of UAS — and was not brought down in a controlled fashion, nor has been "reverse-engineered".

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:24PM (#39763843) Journal
    Its funny that you think the word fair comes into play at all when talking about sovereignty. We are not interested in being fair, nor should we be.
  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:30PM (#39763893)

    They can probably buy most of the components off the shelf. I doubt they would have to build a semiconductor fab or turbine "directional crystal growth" thingies.
    Small jet engines are readily available (every airliner has one as an auxiliary power generator unit)... same for CCD cameras and lenses. GPS, CPUs and memory are commodity parts. The airframe can be easily reproduced since they have a real model to work from.
    The hard part will be the software that ties it all together and they seem to have made some progress on that front. This could be interesting. I do hope they open source whatever they decompile / reverse engineer / create. I'm sure the open source community would love to have a "drone stack" to work on.

  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:38PM (#39763943)

    I'm fairly sure China already has it. These days they most likely had a copy of the plans and the software before the first one was even flown.

  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:42PM (#39763975)

    isn't likely to yield the secrets of semiconductor fabrication necessary to produce another one.

    No, but it provides a blue print for what the finished product should look like, which can accelerate parallel development; If I asked you to design a replica of a Lamborghini, I'm sure your efforts would be a lot more successful if I gave you an actual car as opposed to just pictures of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:48PM (#39764025)

    They claim they jammed the control signal and spoofed the GPS (jammed the encrypted signal and spoofed the unencrypted signal which the drone fell back on). The drone then circled (possibly) and eventually decided to return to base and land, which happened at the spoofed location inside Iran. Do you really find that so extremely difficult to believe? Why do you think "logic dictates" that this is a lie? Alternatively, why do you think this doesn't qualify as bringing the drone down in a controlled fashion?

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:48PM (#39764027)

    Why, because only Americans are ingenious enough to be engineers?

    I've met some very smart and capable "Persian" engineers. They don't live in Iran, though :)

    Seriously, a lot of the smartest and best-educated Iranians no longer live in the country, and probably won't unless the place changes politically.

    Think about it - if your home country had a regime like Iran's and you had the means to live just about anywhere else, would you stick around? And if you did, would you work for that regime? There are selfish smart people (duh), but a significant portion of smart people want nothing to do with such a regime.

  • Re:Open Source (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:54PM (#39764097)

    Not to mention Israel

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @02:03PM (#39764187)

    Are you aware, that iran is constructing and building fighter jets?

    Yes, so did we, over sixty years ago. "Building fighter jets" is not the same as "building fighter jets that have even a fraction of a chance of prevailing against those built in the US, in an actual fight involving real fighter jets."

  • by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @02:05PM (#39764197)

    Logic doesn't come to any such conclusion unless there is already bias in the observer, which with your use of the words "panicked narratives" would indicate that you are.

    The way I see it, they appear to have an undamaged US drone (and I tend to associate crash and aircraft as resulting in lots of bits), which the US by claiming it back seems to have verified. Beyond that everything is speculation because politics and propaganda gets involved.

  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Sunday April 22, 2012 @03:10PM (#39764767)

    So why aren't they bringing down every UAS that continues to fly surveillance missions over Iran []?

    Common sense doesn't have a bias.

    Believing a drone whose undercarriage is completely obscured, probably due to significant damage, is "undamaged" is what's biased. The US asking for the drone back doesn't verify it didn't crash. It verifies they have our drone — which they do.

  • Re:Open Source (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:01PM (#39765469)

    The Iranians should be able to do 95% of a drone off the shelf.

    However, their ability to add $5 Million in cost overruns for each drone might be hampered by an underdeveloped Corporate/Military Industrial Complex.

  • Re:Send the MPAA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by anomaly256 (1243020) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @06:25PM (#39766039)
    It makes perfect sense. Corporations run the country. Didn't you know? It's only fitting they should control the military assets and IP since they control all other aspects of government now.

When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly. -- Donald Douglas