Iran Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) is reporting that national military forces have shot down a US Lockheed Martin RQ-170 stealth unmanned air system. The aircraft sustained “little damage” and is in the possession of the Iranian military, IRNA reports.
Iranian news agency claims always have to be taken with some degree of scepticism.
The credibility of the online version of the IRNA article is not helped by the accompanying photo. The US Air Force has never released an official picture of the RQ-170, but we can be sure the the UAV in the IRNA article is not it. The IRNA photo instead is a stock image of the BAE Systems Raven delta wing demonstrator, an aircraft that was retired more than seven years ago.
It is also hard to understand how it is possible to shoot down a UAV and only cause a “little damage”.
Stay tuned as the story develops …
UPDATE 1: Iran Press TV adds a new wrinkle to the story.
“The informed source said on Sunday that Iran Army’s electronic warfare unit successfully targeted the American-built RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft after it crossed into Iranian airspace over the border with neighboring Afghanistan.”
If confirmed, this suggests the RQ-170 wasn’t shot down by fighters or ground-based air defence systems, which may explain the lack of damage.
Once again, Iran so far has produced no visual evidence to back up its claims, so we’ll have to wait for photos. Incidentally, the online Press TV article also publishes the wrong photo of the RQ-170. Their image actually shows the Dassault AVE-D demonstrator.
UPDATE 2: It’s important to remember that Iran has claimed UAV kills before, although never about the RQ-170. In January, Iran claimed to shoot down two UAVs, and then claimed another UAV kill in July. Iran never provided pictures or videos to back up its claims.
UPDATE 3: The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has released a statement that US forces lost control of a UAV late last week in western Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran. The ISAF statement apparently does not identify the lost UAV, but it also doesn’t deny Iranian reports that it was the RQ-170.
UPDATE 4: Here’s the full ISAF statement, via IRNA via DPA.
‘The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to which the Iranians are referring may be a US reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week,’ NATO said.
‘The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status,’ it added.