Google may be compromising national security by allowing anyone to search for the names of military bases and zoom in to see airstrips and possibly even top-secret military drones.
Aviation website Flight Global has done just that, and claims to have found the secret airstrip at Yucca Lake, Nevada, used for testing the RQ-170, an unmanned aerial vehicle developed by Lockheed martin, FOX News reported.
The Google Maps site shows satellite images of either a Predator or Reaper drone on the airstrip, although Flight Global says the RQ-170 was tested there as well – information that is surely of interest to the Iranian military, said Cedric Leighton, a retired US Air Force colonel.
“Iranians would be most interested in operational bases because that tells them how we fly our surveillance missions,” Leighton told FOX.
Sure enough, other Nevada military bases at the Tonopah Test Range like the Creech Air Force Base are also viewable at Google Maps. With this information, anyone – even foreign military – can look up satellite images to inspect secret US spy planes.
“Google is making public what was once the sole province of the military and intelligence community, making this a brave new world for the intel agencies as well,” Leighton said.
Google did not return FOX News‘s requests for comment.
The largely unknown RQ-170 drone made headlines in recent days when it was lost in western Iran. Experts say the drone is the most advanced model yet with high-definition cameras, sensors that can scan for nuclear armaments, and an advanced stealth shell that hides the plane from detection.
Most satellite images are delayed and do not show current military research, military sources told FOX – though none were willing to go into more detail.
The debate over satellite imagery of top secret bases has raged for some time. Previous satellite images showed a secret military base near Denver and in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where images of the Shamsi Airfield showed Predator drones sitting on a parking ramp, ready for deployment.
Yet, with the bleeding-edge RQ-170 lost in Iran, there are new questions about how these images could aid countries that are hostile to the US – and now possess military technology.
John Michener, chief scientist at security firm Casaba, does not see a problem with Google Maps showing spy plane imagery. He says national laws do not apply above the atmosphere, and the mass public now has access to the same satellite images used by governments for decades.