Iran provides Russia with a copy of 'captured' US spy drone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 11:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 2:31am

Iran has given Russia a copy of a US spy drone as proof that its elite forces have reverse-engineered and mass produced the American unmanned aerial vehicle they claim to have captured a year ago.

Iranian media reported that the copy of the ScanEagle drone was provided to Russia on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran between Farzad Esmayeeli, the air defence commander of Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards' military and industrial base, and Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev, head of the Russian air force.

In December, a Guards commander said his forces had got their hands on a ScanEagle, promising Tehran would mass produce it. The US authorities denied those claims at the time, saying all its drones were fully accounted for.

"The drone built by the Islamic republic's Revolutionary Guards is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran and today we presented a real model of it as a gift to Russian air force ... and the Russian people," Esmayeeli said after meeting with Bondarev, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Iran's state English-language newspaper, Tehran Times, said the two met on Sunday and spoke on a range of air defence issues but it did not give further details.

Iran first claimed to have captured a US drone two years ago when the Guards displayed a drone, believed to be an RQ-170 Sentinel. They claimed to have brought it down electronically but the US said the aircraft had merely malfunctioned.

Since then, Iran has claimed advances in drone technology and has put on show a number of US and Israeli drones its elite forces alleged to have shot down.

It is unclear how reliable the Iranian claims about its drone capabilities are.

In September last year, the Guards unveiled Shahed-129, an "indigenous" reconnaissance drone, alleged to have a range of up to 2,000 kilometres making it capable of reaching Israel.