Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Iran claims capture of U.S Navy drone; posts video of aircraft

About a year after its last report of a drone capture, Iran claimed on Tuesday to have captured another U.S. drone aircraft. The U.S., however, rebutted the claim.

According to Iran, a Boeing-designed ScanEagle -- which is a surveillance aircraft, not a strike drone like the Predator -- wandered into Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf and was captured.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced the capture on its website. The IRGC said that the ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Pserian Gulf for the past few days and strayed into Iranian airspace.

However, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, Commander Jason Salata, said all U.S. drones in the region were accounted for:
The U.S. 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.
That doesn't mean that the IRGC doesn't have a ScanEagle in its possession. The craft is a 4-ft long surveillance drone manufactured by U.S.-based Boeing using a design by Insitu. The design was based on a commercial UAV that was used by fishermen look for fish.

The ScanEagle is also not exclusive to the U.S. ScanEagles are supplied to and operated by customers in several Middle Eastern countries, according to Boeing's website. It also famously saw action in April of 2009, when a U.S. Navy ScanEagle was used during the stand-off between the U.S. Navy and pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean after a failed hijack attempt.

The IRGC statement did not say when or where the drone was captured, or how it was captured. At the same time, though, Iran released what it said was video of an apparently undamaged ScanEagle being examined by uniformed officers beneath a sign reading "We shall trample on the U.S." in English.

In late 2011, Iran claimed it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone by spoofing its GPS system, making the drone believe it was landing at its based instead of Iranian territory.

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