Fox News – December 5, 2011
Iran is in possession of a RQ-170 Sentinel drone that went missing over the Islamic Republic, U.S. military sources told Fox News on Monday.
The sources confirmed the Iranians have the drone, however, they did not say that the Iranians shot down the spy plane, as was reported by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
“An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran’s armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran’s armed forces,” IRNA quoted an unidentified Iranian military official saying Sunday. The official also warned of strong and crushing response to any violations of the country’s airspace by American drone aircraft.
Earlier, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan issued a statement saying the aircraft may have been a drone that operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighboring western Afghanistan.
A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the incident, said the U.S. had “absolutely no indication” that the drone was shot down.
Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and that it seeks to generate electricity and produce isotopes to treat medical patients.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is made by Lockheed Martin and is equipped with stealth technology.
Iran said in January that two pilotless spy planes it had shot down over its airspace were operated by the United States and offered to put them on public display. In July, Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several U.S. drones they said were shot down in recent years.
Also in July, Iranian lawmaker Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that was trying to gather information on an underground uranium enrichment site.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., told Fox News on Monday that “it’s less likely than not” that the Iranians did not shoot down the plane, but it had a mechanical or computer malfunction that caused it to go down “and then used it for propaganda purposes.”
“In the past, they have claimed these shoot-downs and been unable to produce any pieces of the drone, and currently, they have not exhibited any piece of the RQ-170 yet,” he said.