On Sunday, Iranian news network Fars News Agency announced that an Iranian electronic warfare unit had downed and captured a American RQ-170 Sentinel, an unmanned aerial drone manufactured by American defense and aeronautics company Lockheed Martin.
According to a statement from the Iranian government, the drone was in violation of Iran airspace and was brought down after the Iranian unit hijacked the controls from the American. This was later changed to the Iranian’s having shot the drone down.
The U.S Military confirmed that the remains of a RQ-170 were captured by the Iranian army, though they claimed it was flying a mission over western Afghanistan when they lost contact due to a mechanical error.
On Wednesday, an Iranian TV station aired of what appears to be the RQ-170 in perfect condition being examined by Iranian military officials. The Central Intelligence Agency has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the plane that was broadcast.
The RQ-170 is used as a stealth Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (U.A.V.) and has been assumed to be an information gathering device by many aviation experts. Though very little has been released to the public about the design and specific dimensions of the drone, it is guessed to be much larger than many of the other information gathering drones used by the Air Force and C.I.A. in operations in the Middle East. It was first noticed by the public when a low resolution photo was snapped of it at Kandahar International Airport in Afghanistan, gaining the nickname “The Beast of Kandahar” for its large size.
The Iranian government claims that the drone’s presence in their airspace confirms America’s hostile intentions due to recent conflicts over Iran’s nuclear development program. The official stance of the American military meanwhile says that the plane malfunctioned while flying a mission in Afghanistan and was not intended to cross the border.
Iran’s semiofficial Mehr News agency reported on Thursday night that Russian and Chinese officials have asked for permission to inspect the captured drone.