New Drones Stalked bin Laden for Months

Flying at a high altitude, they were able to evade radar
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2011 6:49 AM CDT
This shows a Predator drone, not the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(Newser) – For months prior to the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the CIA was flying dozens of secret missions in Pakistani airspace using a new stealth drone to monitor his compound. The sophisticated aircraft, designed to fly at high altitudes, evaded radar detection and went beyond the bounds Pakistan has imposed on US drones to obtain the high-resolution video that eluded satellites. The covert move underscores the distrust between the US and Pakistan, the Washington Post notes.

“It’s not like you can just park a Predator overhead—the Pakistanis would know,” says a former US official familiar with the operation, which also involved satellites and eavesdropping equipment. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, first acknowledged to exist by the Air Force in 2009, provided aerial imagery on the night of the raid, which could be what President Obama and the national security team were looking at in the Situation Room photo. It can also listen in on electronic transmissions, allowing the US to monitor Pakistan’s response to the raid. Click to read about another new aircraft used during the raid. (Read more RQ-170 stories.)

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