Iranian TV has broadcast footage of an advanced US drone aircraft that Tehran says it brought down using electronic methods to override its controls.
The BBC’s James Reynolds watched the footage and said the fact that the drone appeared undamaged provided some evidence to support Tehran’s version of events.
The film was captioned “RQ170 – advanced US spy plane” and carried on the Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 channel.
TEHRAN (FNA)- US special forces intended to conduct a covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy a very precious stealth drone that was downed by Iran on Sunday, but ultimately gave up the plan for their fear of Iran’s tough response, Washington officials revealed on Thursday.
Iran announced on Sunday that its defense forces had downed the aircraft through a sophisticated cyberattack.
The drone is the first such loss by the US.
Initially, officials in Washington didn’t believe Iran had detected and downed the drone, but they later admitted that they had lost it. White House officials first alleged that the drone was not anything special and belonged to the ISAF forces in Afghanistan, but later admitted that the unmanned surveillance plane was a stealth aircraft being used for top secret missions by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The US officials are now trying to convince the world that the aircraft and its systems are not among those technologies which shouldn’t have been exposed to Iran, but the western media reported today that the aircraft is so important for the US that they have worked out three operations to retrieve or destroy it.
The RQ-170 has special coatings and a batwing shape designed to help it penetrate other nations’ air defenses undetected. The existence of the aircraft, which is made by Lockheed Martin, has been known since 2009, when a model was photographed at the main US airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
US officials unveiled on Thursday that they considered various options for retrieving the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.
US officials considered both sending in a team of American commandos based in Afghanistan as well as using allied agents inside Iran to hunt down the downed aircraft.
Another option would have had a team sneak in to blow up the drone. A third option would have been to destroy the highly sophisticated aircraft with an airstrike.
However, the officials worried that any option for retrieving or destroying the drone would have risked a tough reaction by Iran.
“No one warmed up to the option of recovering it or destroying it because of the potential it could become a larger incident,” the US official said according to Wall Street Journal.
If an assault team entered the country to recover or destroy the drone, the official said, the US “could be accused of an act of war” by the Iranian government.
Meantime, the US media are trying to convince the world that the drone has been badly damaged and is not of much use to Tehran, but Iran on Thursday evening released the first images along with thorough explanations about its systems, specifications and the way it was downed by military forces in Eastern Iran. The images and the footages aired by the Iranian state-run TV showed that the stealth aircraft is almost intact and without any major damage.
The Thursday evening images, footage and explanations are available on FNA website (the footage is, of course, only available on our Persian website).
Iranian officials had earlier informed the media that the craft sustained only minor damage.
US intelligence and military officials declined to comment on the specific mission the drone was flying when it was brought down by Iran.
George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to comment on the discussions over options to recover the drone.
US officials claimed that analyzing the materials that contribute to the craft’s stealth qualities wouldn’t tell Iranian scientists how to manufacture the necessary coatings, but Iran does not need this information as it manufactured a radar evading spy drone with both surveillance and bombing capabilities almost two years ago.
Iran successfully tested a home-made radar-evading UAV with bombing capabilities in June 2009. A year before that, the country’s Defense Industries launched production lines of two well-known home-made fighter jets, namely Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) and Azarakhsh (Lightening).
Iran started construction of a plant in the northern province of Mazandaran in March 2009 to mass produce various types of UAVs for a wide variety of missions.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced in October, 2010 that the country’s first home-made long-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) named ‘Karrar’ has a flight range of 1,000km.
“Karrar’s flying radius reaches 1000km,” Vahidi said on the sidelines of a ceremony to unveil Karrar, and added, “In addition to Karrar, Iran possesses other UAVs with a flying range of 1,000 km.”
“The jet drone enjoys abundant capabilities, including its far range and operational depth,” he said, adding that Iranian experts have increased the flying altitude of the UAV.
Vahidi also reiterated that Iranian drones can perform different missions and are capable of recording events and transmitting them to their military headquarters.
Iran in early February, 2010 inaugurated the production line of two home-made UAVs with bombing and reconnaissance capabilities.
The two hi-tech drones named ‘Ra’d’ (Thunder) and ‘Nazir’ (Harbinger) are capable of conducting long-range reconnaissance, patrolling, assault and bombing missions with high precision.
Ra’d which is a UAV of choice for assault and bombing missions has the capability to destroy the specified targets with high pinpoint precision.
Iran has recently made good progress in the air industry and has succeeded in gaining the technical know-how for producing stealth aircraft and drones.
Another point regarding the RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone of the CIA which was downed in Iran late last week is that the US media are trying to convince the world that the aircraft has crashed after the CIA lost its control, aside from the fact that a crashed drone cannot be so intact as it was displayed on the Iranian TV, the US officials should remind the history of their lost drones over the Iranian airspace in the last 7 years.
In January, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told “Payam Engelab” (Message of the Revolution) monthly, an internal publication of the IRGC, that Iranian military forces had shot down several spy planes of foreign forces, adding that two of these planes had been shot down over the Persian Gulf.
“We have, thus far, shot down a large number of their highly advanced spy planes”.
After shooting down these planes the IRGC aerospace unit has copied and produced them in large numbers through reverse engineering, the commander added.
The next day, Deputy Head of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Major General Gholam Ali Rashid confirmed earlier reports claiming that several US drones have been shot down by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) air defense units, and said that the planes had been targeted outside Iranian airspace.
“Of course, I should say that the drones have been shot down by an air defense response of the IRGC Air Force outside Iran’s airspace, that is outside our FIR (Iran’s Flight Information Region), in the Persian Gulf,” Rashid told FNA on Sunday.
A flight information region (FIR) is an aviation term used to describe airspace with specific dimensions, in which a flight information service and an alerting service are provided. It is the largest regular division of airspace in use in the world today.
Rashid further added that these pilotless planes are currently kept and controlled by the IRGC.
A few days later, a senior Iranian military official confirmed reports on the shooting down of several enemy drones over the Persian Gulf, and said Iran has targeted a large number of these pilotless planes during the last 7 years.
“We have experienced similar incidents many times in the past and there have even been drones belonging to the occupying Zionist regime (Israel), the United States and Britain which have been shot down in the Persian Gulf during the past 7 years,” the senior military official told FNA Monday on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information.
He also confirmed that the planes had been targeted outside Iranian airspace, and noted, “The move shows that we are careful in a bid to stop violation of Iran’s airspace by alien aggressive drones.”
This picture that has started circulating has me doubting, just look at the wing joiner.