The following is cross-posted from Lobelog.com.
Iran’s Zahedan airport is located on a road named for Allama Iqbal, the great Indian philosopher whom Pakistan after partition adopted as its national poet. The shaheen, or eagle, features prominently in Iqbal’s poetry, as a symbol of vigour, dignity and daring. It is contrasted against the figure of the kargas, or vulture, which represents cunning, cowardice and ignobility. It is the latter appellation that the region frequently applies to the CIA drones which today menace the skies from Waziristan, Kandahar to Zahedan. But shaheen or kargas, they are both ferocious; and it is a feat to capture either. Small wonder then, that some in Iran see cause for celebration in the capture of CIA’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone, a stealth surveillance craft manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
This is not the first time the CIA has delivered one of its most advanced aircraft for inevitable reverse engineering to its putative enemy. On April 9, 1960, people at the Zahedan airport watched anxiously as an aircraft with unusually wide wings approached from the north-east. The Lockheed U-2C was on a top-secret spying mission for the CIA, but its target was not Iran. Indeed, it was coming in to land after being chased by several fighter planes. Over the previous 8 hours, the plane had photographed four strategic Soviet military sites from an altitude of 70,000 feet, well out of the reach of the Russian MiGs and Sukhois. It embarked on its mission from the Badaber air force base 10 miles to the south of Peshawar.