Iran has revealed its newest attempt at reverse engineering the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned air vehicle, which according to local media has been dubbed the Saeqeh, or "Lightning".
The American UAV was downed in December 2011 over the city of Kashmar, approximately 120nm (222km) from the Afghanistan border, while carrying out a surveillance mission. Since then, Tehran has made no secret of its mission to produce its own version of the Sentinel, and an earlier attempt at a variant made its debut flight in 2014.
The privately-owned Tasnim news agency reports that the Saeqeh is the newest model in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Simorgh-class of UAVs, which it says can deploy precision-guided bombs at four different targets at one time. Videos have also appeared online of the UAV being unveiled.
During the reveal, the IRGC’s aerospace force commander, Brig Gen Amir Ali Hajizadeh, says Iran is developing sophisticated UAV technology to rival US systems.
Iran's UAV technology is often revealed to be derived from foreign systems, but despite this Hajizadeh claims in the Tasnim report that the USA is trying to catch up with its developments in stealth and bomb-carrying UAVs. He says Iran is now among the top four UAV developers in the world.
Other US-made UAVs that have fallen into Iranian hands include the Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven. Israel Aerospace Industries’ Heron and Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 have also reportedly been shot down over Iran.
Tehran has previously stated that it has no intention of reverse engineering the Hermes 450, despite its insistence that it has the skills to do so.