December 12, 2012

Iran says it can make copy of captured CIA drone

A senior Iranian lawmaker said experts have reverse-engineered the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and Iran now is capable of launching a production line for the unmanned aircraft.

Ali Akbar Dareini / The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is now capable of manufacturing its own copies of an advanced CIA spy drone captured last year, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday.

Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament's national security committee, said experts have reverse-engineered the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and Iran now is capable of launching a production line for the unmanned aircraft.

"Iranian experts examined and analyzed the RQ-170 drone. Its parts were brought down so that all files and boards of the drone were copied and used to improve Iran's unmanned aircraft," he told the parliament's website, icana.ir, on Wednesday.

Heidarpour said production of RQ-170 drone cost the U.S. around $20 billion, but the expensive technology is now in Iran's possession through reverse engineering.

The Sentinel went down in December. Iran claimed it took control of it and landed it, but U.S. officials said the drone malfunctioned and had to land. They eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back, but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

Iranian officials said the data recovered from the drone showed it did not carry out any missions on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iranian officials frequently announce technological and military breakthroughs, most of which are impossible to confirm independently.

Iranian Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad Mahdinejad said last week that Iran is now exporting its domestically manufactured drones to several countries, including Syria and Venezuela.

Mahdinejad said Iran is now a global leader in drone technology and that its export of drones to other countries demonstrated of Iran's advanced capability in designing and operating unmanned aircrafts.

Heidarpour's comment came two days after Iran's Revolutionary Guard said it decoded all data from the drone that went down near Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan.

Tehran had previously said it recovered information from the top-secret stealth aircraft, but Guard's announcement suggested that technicians may have broken encryptions.

Last week, the Guard claimed it captured another U.S. drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, showing an image of what it said was a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone on state TV.

The ScanEagle is a small, relatively simple drone. The U.S. has said none of its drones were missing, but one or more might have fallen into the sea over the past months.

The Islamic Republic has been trumpeting its possession of the drones in an attempt to embarrass Washington over its alleged surveillance of Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Guard commanders said Iran had previously acquired a ScanEagle drone and produced a copy of it, but they have not provided evidence to back up their claim.

Last month, Tehran claimed that a U.S. drone violated its airspace. The Pentagon said an unmanned Predator aircraft came under fire at least twice while flying over international waters, but it was not hit.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)