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Iran claims to capture US drone over its airspace
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK AND REUTERS
04/12/2012
ScanEagle UAV entered Iranian airspace, Iranian news agency reports; US Navy denies any of its drones are missing.
 
Iran claimed on Tuesday to have captured a US ScanEagle drone over the Persian Gulf, though the United States quickly denied any of its aircraft were missing.

Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval forces said the drone had been intercepted after it violated Iranian airspace, according to Sepah News, the IRGC's official news site.

Fadavi's announcement comes exactly a year after Iran reported it's army's electronic warfare unit had downed a US RQ-170 Sentinel drone over the Iranian city of Kashmar, around 225km from the border with Afghanistan.

However, a US Navy spokesman said that no US drone has been lost in the Gulf recently.

"The US Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles (UAV) operating in the Middle East region. Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and air space," a spokesman for US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain said.

"We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently."

ScanEagle drones, which are small in size and have a long endurance, are used for a variety of naval operations.

Fars news agency reported that the drone was captured sometime "in the last few days." It was not clear how it was captured.

"These kinds of aircraft are normally launched from large ships," said Ali Fadavi, the IRGC's naval commander, according to Fars.

A US Navy spokesman said they were aware of the reports, and were looking into them.

The ScanEagle is manufactured by Boeing Co. According to the firm's website, the drone is four feet long and has a 10-foot (three-meter) wingspan.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

In November, the United States said Iranian warplanes shot at a US surveillance drone flying in international airspace. Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace, and said it would respond "decisively" to any foreign encroachments into its airspace.

Also last month, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to complain about repeated US violations of Iranian airspace, describing them as "illegal and provocative acts".

Khazaee claimed that US craft had entered southern Iran seven times in October around Bushehr where Iran's only nuclear power station is situated.

The United States and Iran are locked in an ongoing dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. The US and its allies believe Tehran is trying to develop an atomic bomb, while Iran says its program is purely peaceful.

In October, the IAF shot down an Iranian-made drone launched into Israel by Hezbollah.

Late last year, Iran captured a United States RQ-170 UAV, later displaying the aircraft.

The Islamic Republic said it was able to reconfigure the RQ-170's GPS system causing it to land in Iran instead of its homebase in Afghanistan, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Iran stated at the time that it planned to "reverse-engineer" the RQ-170 drone and mass produce it in the near future.

JPost.com staff contributed to this report.

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