National Security

Drone Downed by Iran is $220 Million Loss to United States

Whether it was in or out of international airspace, the military drone belonging to the taxpayers of the United States of America, the one shot down by Iran, is valued at approximately $220 million. According to a report published by WIRED magazine, the monster-size RA-Q Global Hawk surveillance drone was as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with the capacity to travel roughly thirty-two-plus hours and was equipped with technological marvels engineered by Northrop Grumman’s finest military-oriented designers and builders.

Our Global Hawk also has (had) the ability to soar at 60,000 feet and proceed a distance of 12,000 nautical miles while propelling its takeoff weight of 16-plus tons.

Now, Iran is claiming the Global Hawk is a messy mass after it obliterated the craft from the sky and fished it from the sea. Iran maintains their claim that our drone was on their side of the court; that debate is still staged.

Despite maritime coordinates and the precision-crafted instrumentation aboard our Global Hawk drone, chronicling its whereabouts at any given time across jurisdictional markers and territorial lines, exactly where the U.S.-owned drone flew remains the center of debate. Indeed, coordinates are not a new factor in answering global positioning of things. And it sounds as if this incredible airborne computer had threading-a-needle accuracy. So we shall see.

As Lily Hay Newman wrote for WIRED, “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Thursday that the Northrop Grumman-made Global Hawk—part of a multibillion-dollar program that dates back to 2001—had entered Iranian airspace and crashed in Iranian waters; US Central Command confirmed the time and general location of the attack, but insists that the drone was flying in international airspace.” The words “general location” stirs some curiosity.

When I were a street cop, only near the last leg of my career did law enforcement acquire the capability to relatively isolate 9-1-1 callers who disconnected their cell phone-made call before speaking. Nowadays, coordinates of a cell phone’s location are provided via GPS satellite transmissions. (Hardline phones automatically generated an ANI, or Automatic Number Identifier, and an ALI, or automatic location identifier, so us coppers knew where to provide help.) Cell phones were a phantom until GPS technology became an increasingly useful thing. It didn’t always prevail in terms of locating a particular caller having a purported emergency, but it did get us in the general location. Once on scene, good old-fashioned snooping for things-out-of-sync became the fix, if any.

Further, many American law enforcement agencies have attached GPS transponders on their police fleet. At any given time, my department’s command staff knew exactly where I was and how fast I may be traversing through the city. Most imperative, GPS tracking devices in police work enable the calvary to hopefully save the day when an officer inexplicably goes silent when beckoned via radio/in-car laptop/cell phone. We’ve seen such cases, when back-up officers arrive to the location of an empty police car and find a comrade downed by gunfire. It’s ugly, but it helps locate incapacitated cops and begins sewing puzzle pieces together.

GPS satellites enable much nowadays, making it very likely that one knows precisely where one’s property is. Heck, lost or stolen cell phones have the embedded mechanisms whereby an app can help locate the whereabouts of the talking/texting device.

So it is highly likely we knew where we were. As the folks at WIRED explained, “[Global Hawks] have no offensive capabilities; their value lies in their ability to combine range, vantage point, and persistence with powerful surveillance sensors to monitor ground or maritime activity in great detail.” This drone was no transistor radio; it was an aerospace marvel missioned for national security purposes and was felled by another nation which appears to be sparking its usual adversarial stance since things are not going their way.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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