A photo released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Thursday shows Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, right, looking at what Iranian officials say is an American RQ-170 Sentinel high-altitude reconnaissance drone that crashed in Iran.
Iran Shows U.S. Drone on TV, and Lodges a Protest
By RICK GLADSTONE
Seizing on its capture of a downed C.I.A. stealth drone as an intelligence and propaganda windfall, Iran displayed the first images of the aircraft on state television Thursday and lodged an official diplomatic protest over its incursion into Iranian airspace.
The 2.5-minute video clip of the remote-control surveillance aircraft was the first visual proof to emerge that Iran had possession of the drone since Sunday, when Iran claimed that its military downed the aircraft. American officials have since confirmed that controllers of the aircraft, based in neighboring Afghanistan, had lost contact with it.
The drone, which appeared to be in good condition, was shown displayed on a platform, with photos of Iran’s revolutionary ayatollahs on the wall behind it and a desecrated version of the American flag, with what appeared to be skulls instead of stars, underneath its left wing.
Broadcast of the footage coincided with Iran’s announcement that it had formally protested what it called the violation of Iranian airspace by the spy drone. Because Iran and the United States have no direct diplomatic relations, Iran made its complaint by summoning the ambassador from Switzerland, which manages American interests in Iran.
American officials have identified the missing drone as an RQ-170 Sentinel, an unarmed bat-winged aircraft used by the C.I.A. that can linger undetected for hours at 50,000 feet, far higher than most aircraft can fly, with cameras and other sensor equipment to monitor what is on the ground below. An RQ-170 was used to gather intelligence for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistan safe house earlier this year.
The loss of an RQ-170 in Iran is a potentially significant intelligence blow for the United States, which has been stepping up efforts to monitor suspected nuclear sites there. In early November, a United Nations report said that Iran may be actively working on a nuclear weapon and a missile delivery system for it. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful; it denounced the U.N. report as a "fabrication" and a pretext for military intervention by the United States and its allies.
Iran’s leaders, who have been increasingly isolated diplomatically over the nuclear issue, point to the aircraft as evidence of American hostile intentions toward Iran.
On state television, the video clip was narrated by a voice saying that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and army had “collaborated to shoot down the plane.” The unidentified narrator gave the drone’s dimensions as 26 meters (about 85 feet) from wingtip to wingtip, 4.5 meters (15 feet) from nose to tail and about one meter (3 feet) in thickness. The narrator also said the aircraft had “electronic surveillance systems and various radars” and was “a very advanced piece of technology.”
In what appeared to be an attempt to explain the aircraft’s undamaged appearance, a Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, identified as Amir Ali Hajizadeh, says in the video that the drone “was detected by Iranian radars as soon as it entered Iranian airspace and was brought down by Iran’s military systems with the minimum damage possible.”
Nonetheless, it remains unclear how the American controllers of the aircraft lost contact with it and how it ended up, seemingly intact, on the ground in Iran. American officials have not specified where it was lost; Iran’s state-run press has said that it landed near the town of Kashmar, about 140 miles from the Afghanistan border.
RQ-170 flights were among the most secret of the C.I.A.'s intelligence gathering efforts in Iran, according to American experts and officials who have been briefed about them.
This occurred a few days back when Iran claimed to have downed a drone in its border regions, which it says was an American one. Now Iran has claimed this before (most recently in this past summer) but this time they are now showing a video of the drone, which they have claimed they were able to bring it down electronically.
The US has yet to officially comment on its authenticity, nor has it been 'independently' verified.
Strange that the US didn't make an effort to destroy or self-destruct the drone.
Also strange that the drone didn't take any damage. If it is really an US drone and not just some mock-up then the USAF really needs to hire more competent aerospace engineers.
It doesn't look like they shot it down as it appears relatively undamaged. I wonder how much China or Russia will pay to get their hands on this drone and it's technologies after Iran's done picking it apart.
The Iranian's say they were able to hack the signals and fly the aircraft down and crash land it in a field. The US says it is missing a drone, and Iran is showing one. Chances are this is legit.
The US has had issues with drones being eavesdropped but I am not aware of a enemy able to take control of one before. I am surprised there are not better security measures to prevent hijacking a drone.
Its also possible the drone suffered engine failure and glided down to a crash landing. I do not believe it was shot down as originally claimed.
As I understand it if the drone loses contact with base it falls back on pre programmed instructions and can follow a pre planned course.
Voice of joy and sunshine
26th May 2003
I'm surprised this stuff isn't fail hard. You'd assume that a spy drone would blow itself to bits if it had some sort of horrible failure. Apparently not though...
OctovonIt doesn't look like they shot it down as it appears relatively undamaged. I wonder how much China or Russia will pay to get their hands on this drone and it's technologies after Iran's done picking it apart.
I was thinking the same. It appears real.
Hypothetically, there's a possibility that the US let their drone go down on purpose and it contains more equipment than it appears to contain ...
Just a random possibility though.
It is in fact being said that U.S. operators lost contact of the plane which then crash landed in Iran. I believe the hacking in thing is false and is propoganda.
I didn't make it!
It's certainly smaller in size than I expected. There is a lot of speculation that it lost contact and ran out of fuel. Also note where the wing connects to the fuselage. It looks like the wing may have broke off when the thing crashed, and then Iran patched it back together and gave it a new paint job. I just hope the impact was enough to seriously **** up most of the electronics.
A lot of commentators on aviation websites have been saying the stealth features aren't all that advanced compared to our manned stealth aircraft, or UAVs in development like the X-47B. It's more geared towards affordability than "top of the line" stealth. Considering how these have been openly flying from Kandahar since 2007, the RQ-170 certainly isn't the best UAV technology we have in our inventory.
US issued a formal demand for the return of the drone though emphasized it knew Iran would not recognize the request. As the article points out Ahmadinejad visiting in Venezuela rejected such a demand.
More recently the Foreign Minister has, as expected, said that no drone return can occur with out the US issuing an apology for infringing on their territory. This of course follows similar actions before where the US had ended up getting directly involved with the Iranians in someway. Article also points out Iran's attempts to pass a resolution against the United States for this act against their security, saying that there are double standards involved after a similar resolution was thrown against Iran for the alleged assassination plot.