USAF Confirms Existence Of New Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

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Pictures of a mysterious secret drone flown by the U.S. military have been circulating around the Internet for months now (click here and here), and this week the U.S. Air Force confirmed that it is flying a new unmanned aerial vehicle called the RQ-170 Sentinel. The online images show what appears to be a squat flying-wing design. The unarmed UAV is being developed by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works and is intended "to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support" to combat forces, the Air Force said in a brief statement to Aviation Week. The Air Force did not release any images of the aircraft. The drone is flown by the Air Force from Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. It has reportedly been spotted in the skies above southern Afghanistan.

"The fielding of the RQ-170 aligns with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates' request for increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the combatant commanders and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz's vision for an increased USAF reliance on unmanned aircraft," the Air Force said. The aircraft appears to have a wingspan of about 65 feet, according to Aviation Week.