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The Beast of Kandahar

This mysterious UAV dubbed "The Beast of Kandahar" has surfaced in many photos in recent years. It first appeared in the skies of Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2009 and the US Air Force confirmed that they did indeed operate a stealth drone called the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel and that the drone is the product of Lockheed's Skunk Works, which is also responsible for the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Nighthawk, the F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II. However, that was about all that was revealed about this mysterious aircraft.

Pictures of the RQ-170 Sentinel right now show that it does not carry any weapons. So what is it used for? Reconnaissance is definitely part of its function but with so many other drones operating in Afghanistan, it certainly is unlikely that information collection is the only function of the drone. Well, according to Bill Sweetman, a blogger that maintains AviationWeek's Ares blog and the undisputed civilian expert of the RQ-170 at this point states that from looking at the belly shape of the Beast, it is most likely configured to carry "a high-powered microwave source" to fry electronic equipment such as radars and weapons computers or as an electronic jamming platform.

However, right now, the secret drone is more likely jamming radars than using a high-powered microwave weapon. Only four months ago, the US Air Force gave Lockheed Martin $230 000 to develop a microwave energy weapon concept and a month later gave BAE Systems $150 000 to test the effectiveness of microwaves on computers.

It is interesting to note that the RQ-170 Sentinel is similar in appearance to the US Navy's X-47B Stealth UAV drone.

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