After a chance run-in with a flying RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft this summer at Creech AFB, Nevada, I got a request to have the images I took published. I already knew they were pretty special at the time, and apparently others thought so as well. Yesterday the October issue of Combat Aircraft Monthly fell on my doormat, and with a 3/4 page in the headlines section devoted to my Sentinel images I am pleased with the result!
RQ-170 Sentinel breaks cover in the US
New images of the US Air Force’s secretive RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle have been taken at Creech AFB, Nevada. The images, taken in July, clearly show the aircraft from a number of angles, including the first time the underside has been captured. The images were taken from a public road during normal operations at the base and on close inspection reveal a serial ‘927’ on the nosewheel bay door. It is thought that this might signal a more relaxed approach to the RQ-170 and its operations, as until now they have never been seen in public and have mainly operated in secret from their home base at Tonopah, on the Nellis range complex.
According to rumours circulated on Chinese defence forums, a group of Chinese experts may have recently visited Iran to inspect and even collect elements of the RQ-170 that came down in Iran last year. It is thought that some components may be exploited and reverse-engineered by Chinese scientists, who are likely to have been given unlimited access to the drone, which was embarrassingly paraded on Iranian state television in December last year.
One tiny correction to the article text: the serial ‘927’ is painted on the inside of the nosewheel bay door. Another image (see below, not published in the magazine) shows the digit ‘7’ more clearly by the way.
Two exclusive new images of the RQ-170 Sentinel, seen here flying pattern work at Creech AFB, Nevada, in July. The photographs were taken from a public road, indicating a relaxed approach to the type’s previously secretive activities.
Although not faked in any way, the magazine editors did bent the truth a little bit here. They have made it look like the RQ-170 flew right over my head when the underside view image was taken, but in reality they rotated the image 90 degrees. At the time the aircraft was flying from left to right, banking away in the pattern revealing its underside. I know it is so because I was there (obviously), otherwise they would have fooled me too…
As a bonus, another two images taken outside of Creech AFB last July: