Since April, a steady string of reports have detailed sightings of a mysterious, unidentified UAV prowling the skies above Kandahar. Grainy, Loch-Ness-Monster-like photos revealed a flying-wing-type aircraft with stealth features.
Now, the French blog Secret Defense has published the clearest photos yet of the secret plane, and the mystery has only deepened.
The plane pictured above is clearly a next-generation UAV, but the question of which next-generation UAV it is has led to some debate. At first look, Steve Trimble of The DEW Line thought it resembled Lockheed’s Polecat. However, Popsci’s resident UAV expert Eric Hagerman pegged the mysterious drone as Boeing’s X-45. Then again, John Pike of GlobalSecurity.net noted “for every UAV program we know about, there’s one that we don’t know about,” suggested the new UAV may be part of some previously unannounced program.
In many ways, the confusion only highlights the uniformity of the next generation of UAVs. Both the X-45 and the Polecat incorporate stealth features, resemble the flying-wing shape first perfected by the B-2, and have just enough development behind them that battlefield testing doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Amazing. A mere seven years after the CIA carried out its first drone strike, the Predator’s replacements have already arrived in theater.