Gates expresses “concern” over Iranian drones

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed concern Thursday over Iran’s aerial drone program, saying the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.

“Countries like Iran are developing their own UAVs and already have a UAV capability,” Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee, using the acronym the military uses for drones – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

“That is a concern, because it is one of these areas where – if they chose to, in Iraq, in Afghanistan – they could create difficulties for us.”

Drones however “are relatively slow flyers and we have a very capable Air Force. So I actually think that our ability to protect our troops from these things, particularly in a combat theater like this is quite good.”

The main concern, he said, was that terrorists could get hold of the drones.

“My worry would be capabilities like this getting in the hands of non-state actors who could use them for terrorist purposes,” Gates said.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi in February opened two production lines for the manufacture of “advanced” unmanned aircraft or drones, Fars news agency reported.

The drones would be able to carry out “surveillance, detection and even assaults with high precision,” the report said.