Iran has unveiled its own version of the US Lockheed Martin Sentinel RQ-170 drone which the Islamic Republic shot down in 2011. Officials at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council’s (IRGC) Aerospace Exhibition confirmed that the new drone would be undergoing flight testing soon.
The reverse-engineered UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) was displayed alongside the original US drone which was captured in northeastern Iran near the city of Kashmar. At the exhibition, which was attended by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the IRGC revealed that the Iranian made drone was outfitted with advanced data collection technology, video and radar telecom.
“Our engineers succeeded in breaking the drone’s secrets and copying them. It will soon take a test flight,” an officer stated in footage broadcast on Iranian TV.
“This drone is very important for reconnaissance missions,” Khamenei stated as he looked upon the drone.
While at the exhibition, the Supreme Leader characterized Western expectations of Iran limiting its missile program as “stupid and idiotic.” According to Reuters, he also called on the IRGC to begin mass-producing missiles.
“They expect us to limit our missile program while they constantly threaten Iran with military action. So this is a stupid, idiotic expectation,” Khamenei said. “The revolutionary guards should definitely carry out their program and not be satisfied with the present level. They should mass produce. This is a main duty of all military officials.”
Israel has taken into account Iran’s capturing of the drone and its advanced technological capabilities. Recently, the Israeli Air Force began conducting maneuvers that are specially designed to deal with potential UAV threats.
The IAF reported on their website that jet fighters and combat helicopter squadrons took part in training exercises that practiced intercepting a UAV near Israel’s border.
“This year, we practiced against a different kind of UAV,” explained Captain Avi, Ground Safety Officer at the Ramon Air Base. “It is more advanced, faster and can stay in the air longer than the routine UAV’s, and thus poses more of a threat for the air crews.”
Control crews also took part in the exercises, testing their detection and alarm systems. Control crews are tasked with monitoring Israeli airspace 24/7, looking for even the smallest aircraft. Their job is to continuously monitor the approaching aircraft and scramble jets and helicopters that are meant for interception.
“The training on this specific subject is meant to deal a preventative blow. This is a threat that is constantly growing, and the Air Force is not ignoring it, on the contrary, it is preparing for the moment of need,” Captian Avi explained.
The Sentinel RQ-170 was originally used by the US in covert operations in Afghanistan from 2005 until 2007. The drone is especially hard to detect with long range radar due to a specialized stealth coating that makes it only first visible from a distance of 40 kilometers.
Upon downing the drone, Iran claimed that it was able to use radio electronic warfare skills and known vulnerabilities in the Sentinel’s GPS to trick the drone into landing in Iranian territory. While the US has never confirmed Iran’s claims, they are highly plausible since the original drone does not show any visible damage.
Reports claim that US armed forces officials asked President Barack Obama for permission to launch a commando raid to recover the drone or bomb and destroy the drone. Reportedly Obama refused both options for fear that these acts could be interpreted as an act of war.
News of the newly unveiled copycat drone comes one day before the resumption of nuclear talks in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1.