The US Navy denied claims made by Tehran on Tuesday that Iran’s Revolutionary
Guard Corps had captured one of its spy drones over the Persian
R.-Adm. Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps
naval forces, said the drone had been intercepted after it violated Iranian
airspace, according to Sepah News, the Guards’ official news site.
made his announcement on the anniversary of Iran’s downing of a US stealthy
RQ-170 Sentinel drone in December 2011.
The Revolutionary Guard Corps
naval commander said the recently captured drone was a US ScanEagle robot that
had conducted ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) missions over
Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf.
When it entered Iranian airspace, the
Revolutionary Guard Navy’s defense and control units tracked and intercepted it,
Kharg Island, some 25 km. off Iran’s coast, is the
site of a major petroleum refinery and a naval base.
In response to
Iran’s claims, the US Navy denied losing a drone.
Cmdr. Jason Salata, a
spokesman for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said that ScanEagles had
been “lost into the water” in the past, but that there was no record of any
recent losses, the Navy Times reported.
“The US Navy has fully accounted
for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region,” Salata said.
“Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognized waters
The ScanEagle is a tiny, high endurance drone built by
America’s Insitu, Inc, a subsidiary of Boeing. The drone can stay in flight for
over 20 hours and can send realtime video streams to operators with a range of
around 100 km.
They are used for a variety of naval operations and can be
launched from a warship.
If Iran’s report of capturing the drone is true,
it indicates that the US could be using multiple types of drone to carrying out
ISR missions over Iran’s western and eastern coasts, and that Iran is capable of
intercepting, downing and retrieving them.
Fadavi’s announcement was
reported across Iran’s state media, with several Revolutionary Guard-affiliated
sites running detailed stories about the alleged drone capture.
Fars News, which is closely affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps,
published photographs of what it claimed was the drone, which had been hung
above a map of the Persian Gulf, above which is a sign that quotes the Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini in Persian and English: “We shall trample on the US.” Affixed
to the drone is a card containing the Revolutionary Guard logo.
released footage to several of its state-controlled media outlets, including Al-
Alam in Arabic and Press TV in English, showing two Revolutionary Guard
commanders examining an apparently undamaged ScanEagle drone.
decision to publicly announce the drone capture on Tuesday was not a
The announcement came on the anniversary of the downing of a
US RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drone over the Iranian city of Kashmar, around
225 km. from the border with Afghanistan.
Last week, Revolutionary Guard
Aerospace Division commander Brig.-Gen. Amir- Ali Hajizadeh said that Iran
planned to unveil more information from the RQ-170 to commemorate the first
anniversary of its downing.
Iran saw the downing of the RQ-170 as a great
victory over the US, and has made much of the incident, even displaying a
replica of the drone at a rally in Tehran last year, above a banner that read in
Persian: “Israel will be wiped off the scene.”
Over the past year the
Revolutionary Guard Corps has also made several claims to have decoded the
radar-evading technology in the RQ-170, and to have reverse-engineered
technologies from the drone.
Iran has failed, however, to provide any
real evidence to back up these claims.
Fadavi’s announcement also comes a
day after the US officials announced, through The Washington Post, that the
Pentagon has stepped up spying operations on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor in
the past two months, in response to concerns about the security of weapons-grade
plutonium. The new operations yielded images and audio communications from
Bushehr, the officials said.
The Revolutionary Guard’s move also comes
after the US announced on November 8 that Iranian Su-25 jets had fired but
failed to hit a MQ-1 Predator drone as it flew in international airspace in the
Persian Gulf a week earlier.
Tehran later said in response that the
Predator drone had violated Iranian airspace, and suggested that it had been
conducting surveillance over the Bushehr nuclear reactor on Iran’s southwest
There appeared, however, to be some disagreement within the
Iranian regime over why it allowed Washington to gain the upper hand by
announcing the Predator incident first, an unusual move given Iran’s later
boasts that its jets had managed to chase the drone away. Mashregh News, which
is closely affiliated by the Revolutionary Guard, hinted after the incident that
Iran should have moved to report the incident immediately after it
Some days after Washington announced the Predator incident,
Iran filed a formal complaint to the UN, accusing the US Navy of repeatedly
violating its airspace with drone flights.
The US says that its
surveillance is carried out in international airspace. The recognized limit for
international airspace in the Persian Gulf is 12 nautical miles, or 22.224 km.