American officials have acknowledged that an unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane was lost on a mission late last week, but have insisted that there is no evidence the drone was downed by hostile acts by Iran. Rather, they said, the drone likely went down because of a malfunction, and they implied the advanced stealth reconnaissance plane would have fallen from a high altitude, that is since the RQ-170 Sentinel can fly as high as 50,000 feet, and as a result, wouldn't be in good shape.
Iran's video tour of the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone.
Iranian military officials have claimed since Sunday, they brought down an intact American spy drone, and now they are giving video tours of what looks to be a drone in apparently decent condition, in what seems to be another humiliating poke in the eye for U.S. national security agencies.
"On Sunday December 4, the Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit downed the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which was flying over the Iranian city of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 km) from the Afghan border," Iran's Press TV said in its report Thursday.
The Pentagon is declining to comment on the images, a Defense Department spokesman said Thursday, according to Yahoo News.
The New York Times reported Thursday that, unsurprisingly, the RQ-170 was lost while making the latest foray over Iran during an extended CIA surveillance effort of Iran's nuclear and ballistic weapons program.
"The overflights by the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin and first glimpsed on an airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2009, are part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran, current and former officials say," the Times' Scott Shane and David Sanger wrote. "The urgency of the effort has been underscored by a recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon."
Iran in turn has complained that the drone flights represent an act of aggression and violation of its sovereignty, and summoned the Swiss envoy, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, on Thursday to register its complaints.
The video tour may also be a move to bid up the price Iran could receive for sharing the highly advanced American stealth drone technology with countries such as China and Russia. Defense experts have suggested that those countries have the advanced military know-how to be able to use the access to the previously secret U.S. RQ-170 technology to benefit their own programs.