Speed Reads

game of drones

Iran says it is test-flying its reverse-engineered captured U.S. drone

Iran's state media reported Monday that Tehran's reverse-engineered U.S. surveillance drone has successfully completed its first test flight. Iran says it captured the CIA-operated RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drone in Eastern Iran in December 2011, later posting purported evidence that it had breached the drone's software system and siphoned out its secrets. "Today is a very sweet and unforgettable day for me," said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a video posted by the Tasnim News Agency.

"We had promised to fly the final model of RQ-170 in the second half of the current (Iranian) year," which started on March 21, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on Monday. "This has happened, and the footage of its flight will be released soon." The U.S. used the Lockheed Martin–built RQ-170 for surveillance, but Iran has added bombing capabilities, Hajizadeh added.

Gareth Jennings at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly is skeptical of Iran's claims. Some parts of the RQ-170 may have been easy to reverse-engineer, like the flight control system and aerodynamic shape, but "others, such as its stealth technology and payload, are not," Jennings said. "Iran's recent attempts at showing off its stealth technology have not shown much promise, most notable among these is the Qaher-313 stealth fighter, which was met with almost universal derision when it was unveiled in early 2013."