Iran claims it reverse-engineered RQ-170 Sentinel – and new video purports to show footage taken by aircraft
Iran's state TV has broadcast footage allegedly extracted from the advanced CIA spy drone captured in 2011, the latest in a flurry of moves from Iranian authorities meant to underline the nation's purported military and technological advances.Iran has long claimed it managed to reverse-engineer the RQ-170 Sentinel, seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern border with Afghanistan.
After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the Sentinel had been monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.
The video aired late on Wednesday shows an aerial view of an airport and a city, said to be a US drone base and Kandahar in Afghanistan. Television also showed images purported to be the Sentinel landing at a base in eastern Iran but it was unclear if that footage was meant to depict the moment of the drone's seizure.
In addition, footage also showed images of an Iranian helicopter transporting the drone, as well as its disassembled parts being carried on a trailer.
In another part of the video, the chief of the Revolutionary Guard's airspace division, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said that only after capturing the drone did Iran realise it "belonged to the CIA."
"We were able to definitively access the data of the drone, once we brought it down," said Hajizadeh.
He described the Sentinel's capture as a huge scoop for Iran, saying that at the time, Tehran did not rule out a possible punitive US air strike over the drone.
Iranian officials have accused the US of stepping up espionage activities against Iran as part of intensified western efforts to force Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, a key aspect of its disputed nuclear programme.The US and its allies suspect Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
In an attempt to embarrass Washington, Iran has claimed to have captured several American drones, most recently in December, when Tehran said it seized a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone – a less sophisticated aircraft – after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.US officials said there was no evidence that the latest claims were true.
The latest Sentinel footage came as the US tightened sanctions to pressure the Iranian government to limit its nuclear program and restrictions on institutions that Washington says are stifling political dissent and censoring speech.
Among the expanded measures announced Monday by the treasury department is a move to deny Iran access to revenue garnered from its oil exports. Under the latest sanctions, Iran would only be able to use revenue from its oil sales in a country that purchased its crude – now mostly big Asian economies such as China and India – which would significantly limit its access to the money.