All of a sudden it was there, but then like any good stealth aircraft it vanished. Now the “Beast of Kandahar” has resurfaced in new photos, spurring aviation and defense wonks to once again speculate about the function and purpose of such a stealthy-looking unmanned aerial system.
The Beast, also known as the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, first appeared in 2009 in the skies over Kandahar in Afghanistan. It was later revealed to be a product of Lockheed’s Skunk Works and property of the U.S. Air Force, but that’s about all that was revealed. What the RQ-170 is designed to do—or is doing in Afghanistan—remains under wraps.
Bill Sweetman, keeper of Aviation Week’s Ares blog and the civilian authority on the drone at this point, has speculated that aside from the obvious reconnaissance functions, the Beast could perhaps be configured to carry “a high-powered microwave source” to fry computers and electronic equipment on the ground, or an electronic jamming platform to support other aircraft. But at the official level, silence surrounds the Beast of Kandahar and its potential combat (or non-combat) functions, and quiet is exactly the way a secret stealth drone likes it.