US cyber experts are cautious about Iranian claims in yesterday’s CSM that they jammed the GPS signals of the RQ-170 drone and inserted new geolocation data to lure the asset to a crash landing:
First, Iran would need to spot the stealth drone. Second, it would need to jam the encrypted GPS signal. Third, it would have to substitute a false signal that the internal systems on the drone could understand and obey.
US experts say even the first task – spotting the drone – would be very difficult for Iran.
“The weak point in the Iranian argument is how they detected the drone in the first place, which I find implausible given the existing quality of their air-defense system, which is not sufficiently sophisticated to detect it,” says Dennis Gormley, a University of Pittsburgh expert on unmanned air systems, including cruise missiles and drones, who also worked in the intelligence community. “Their air defenses are of a type that doesn’t have the ability to detect a low-cross-section vehicle like the RQ-170.”
Locating a stealth drone operating at perhaps 40,000 feet would stretch even Russia and China, which have far more sophisticated radar defense systems, he says.
GPS jamming is a known vulnerability. But that’s all I’m going to say about that. And that image that Iran is broadcasting? Hmm.
Something about all of this is not quite right.