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The RQ-170 Sentinel is a high altitude and long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle () designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force. The Sentinel can capture real-time imagery of the battlefield and transfer the data to the ground control station through a line of sight (LOS) communication data link.
New photos of the still classified have emerged from Vandenberg air force base, California, according to aviationweek.com.
The was developed in secret in the 1990s and seen for the first time in 2007 in Afghanistan. The new images, taken on Feb. 28 while photographers were visiting the base appear to show the RQ-170 is uniquely configured for testing.
The facility is thought to be the world’s largest instrumented over-water range for multi-service test, development and training operations in electronic-combat environments.
The Sentinel pictured at Vandenberg is equipped with a large air data sensor probe, not previously seen on other sightings. The aircraft also appears to have a large dielectric panel painted in black radio-transparent paint mid-span on the lower surface of the port wing and is also configured with the active electronically scanned array surveillance and tracking radar system previously seen on earlier photos.
According to airspacemag.com, the Sentinel has the stealthy form of the 172-foot-span B-2 bomber but is less than half its size. Because the Sentinel is manufactured by the company that manufactured the F-22 stealth fighter and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, it can be assumed that its skin uses radar-absorbent materials to further diminish radar return. Although its shape and materials keep it invisible to some radars, others would be able to detect the aircraft but might not be able to track or target it.
The Sentinel is operated by the US Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Creech AFB, Nevada. However, a detachment of the reconnaissance unit was also set up six years ago at Vandenberg, as evidenced for the first time by this sighting, aviationweek.com reports.