Iran Says Building Copy of Captured US Drone

Posted April 22nd, 2012 at 4:40 am (UTC-5)
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A senior Iranian commander says Tehran has reverse-engineered a U.S. spy drone captured by Iran's armed forces last year and has begun building a copy.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the aerospace division of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, was quoted Sunday by Iranian news agencies as saying experts are also recovering data from the RQ-170 Sentinel drone captured in December in eastern Iran.

U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the surveillance drone. They have said Iran will find it hard to exploit any data and technology aboard it because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.

Hajizadeh said the drone contained many “secret codes,” but he implied that these had been cracked, saying the spy plane now had “no hidden points.”

He said exact information about the drone's history had been recovered indicating that it had flown “above [al-Qaida leader Osama] bin Laden's Pakistani hideout two weeks before he was assassinated.”

The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that a CIA stealth surveillance drone flew deep over Iranian territory more than three years ago, capturing images of the secret Qom uranium enrichment facility before returning home.

The newspaper, quoting former senior U.S. intelligence officials, said there was no sign the aircraft was ever detected. It said such CIA spy planes scoured dozens of suspicious sites related to Iran's disputed nuclear program before the RQ-170 aircraft crashed in December.

The Post said the expanded intelligence collection has reinforced the White House view that it will have early warning of any move by Iran to assemble a nuclear bomb.

Western countries say Iran's nuclear program aims to produce atomic weapons. Iran says the work is solely for peaceful purposes.