An Iranian engineer says a team of specialists from his country hacked into a GPS navigator of the RQ-170 stealth drone and forced it to land inside the country.
The unnamed engineer told The Christian Science Monitor on Thursday that serious weaknesses in the drone's navigation systems allowed Iranians to spoof the GPS signals it received, fooling the drone into thinking it was landing at an American airfield in Afghanistan.
“The GPS navigation is the weakest point. The spoofing technique that the Iranians used - which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data - made the drone land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications from the US control center,” he stated.
The Iranian engineer highlighted that Iran's takedown of the most advanced US stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, did not occur overnight.
Rather, Iranian experts have been studying drones since 2007, and especially since 2009, which is when the RQ-170 was first deployed in Afghanistan, he noted.
Iranians have in recent years managed to reverse engineer the systems of two unmanned aerial vehicles that they earlier downed in the country, and figured out their vulnerabilities.
On December 4, Iran downed with minimum damage the US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which was flying over the eastern city of Kashmar, some 225km (140 miles) from the Afghan border.
The capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone by Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit occurred as the advanced US-built reconnaissance was on its very first mission over Iran. Its seizure at the moment means that Iranians were alerted in advance about the precise moment of its secret arrival.