For what would be the third such occurrence in the last year, the Iranian navy claims to have captured a U.S. surveillance drone that flew into its airspace. However, the U.S. government says none of its pilotless planes are missing.
“The U.S. drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guards’ navy air defense unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace,” Iranian navy chief Ali Fadavi said.
An American Navy spokesman in Bahrain countered the claim, saying: “The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region. Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and air space.”
He added, “We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently.”
American officials say captured drones would be useless to governments and other groups trying to copy the technology to build their own, as the software is encrypted.
With all the claims and counter claims flying around, including disputes about how previous drones were downed and captured by Iran, the two nations seem to be engaged in a competition to appear tough and capable.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Last month, Iran claimed a US drone had violated its airspace. The Pentagon said the unmanned Predator aircraft came under fire at least twice but was not hit and that it was over international waters.
In April this year, Iran claimed it had copied technology from a US drone brought down in December 2011 on its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Tehran said it recovered data from the RQ-170 Sentinel, a top-secret drone equipped with stealth technology. As proof, Iranian military cited the drone’s flight log, saying it had flown over Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout two weeks before he was killed by US special forces.
Official U.S. Navy Imagery (CC BY 2.0)
The ScanEagle is made by Boeing and typically launched from Navy ships.