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So the US military has a new toy. (Unknown UAV)

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Kandahar's Loch Ness monster has been spotted again. This time an actual photo of the beast was published by French journalist Jean-Dominique Merchet, who writes for the Liberation newspaper, on his Secret Defense blog. We last saw the mystery Kandahar aircraft in a drawing by Shephard's Unmanned Vehicles and a very grainy photo published by Air & Cosmos.

The new photo offers a slightly better view of the nose. Is that a canopy screen above the nose? I wondered in May if this might actually be a manned aircraft, even if it was first sighted on UV.com. If there is a cockpit, where is the air intake for the engine? The half-moon exhaust pipe strikingly resembles the P175 Polecat, a Skunk Works product.

Regardless of how it is piloted, the Kandahar aircraft's existence raises several existential questions: What does it do? Why do you need a stealthy-looking aircraft to spy on Al Qaeda and the Taliban? What's all the secrecy about? While I'm asking, can somebody please get a head-on picture?

[uPDATE: Bill Sweetman, of Ares blog infamy, believes the aircraft is the Skunk Works' Desert Prowler, which would make it a UAV.]

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UPDATE:

The secret aircraft now has an official denomination: The RQ-170 Sentinel, a flying wing developed by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works.

The RQ-170 is a stealthy unmanned aircraft designed to "provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces." It's flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, under the Air Combat Command's 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

The aircraft has a 65-foot wingspan, with a fat body and a blended wing design. It's unarmed, andaccording to David A. Fulghum at Aresits light color is unusual for high altitude UAV.

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