Malfunction likely put US drone in Iranian hands

December 7, 2011 08:46

WASHINGTON - The unmanned US drone Iran said on Sunday it had captured was programmed to automatically return to base even if its data link was lost, one key reason that US officials say the drone likely malfunctioned and was not downed by Iranian electronic warfare.

US officials have been tight-lipped about Iranian claims that its military downed an RQ-170 unmanned spy plane, a radar-evading, wedge-shaped aircraft dubbed "the Beast of Kandahar" after its initial sighting in southern Afghanistan.

The US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said the Iranians might be referring to an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that disappeared on a flight in western Afghanistan late last week. But they declined to say what type of drone was involved.

A US government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the plane was on a CIA mission. The CIA and Pentagon both declined to comment on the issue.

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