The Iranian military has claimed it shot down the US’ unarmed stealth RQ-170 Sentinel drone that is known as the “Beast of Kandahar.” The claim was made by an unnamed Iranian official and was reported on a state-run television network. From Reuters:
“Iran’s military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran,” Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted the unnamed source as saying.
“The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces.”
“The Iranian military’s response to the American spy drone’s violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran’s borders,” the military source said, without elaborating.
Iran’s English-language, state-run PressTV also reported that the RQ-170 was shot down over Iran. The US military released a statement saying an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle crashed in Western Afghanistan last week, and this may be the drone the Iranians are referring to. From the ISAF press release:
“The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a US unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status.”
Keep in mind that Iran claimed it shot down an RQ-170 over the Fordo nuclear site in July. That report was never confirmed.
The RQ-170 is operated by the US Air Force and is known to be based at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. It was used to conduct reconnaissance during the SEAL Team raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, Pakistan in May.
The report of the RQ-170 shoot-down takes place as Iran’s nuclear and weapons program has suffered a series of setbacks over the past year. Iran’s nuclear facilities were hammered by the Stuxnet virus last year, and more recently, key weapons and nuclear infrastructure have been beset by a series of unexplained explosions. One such explosion, at a missile testing site in Bid Kaneh, appears to have destroyed most of the base. Iran has downplayed the explosions and said the blasts have not impacted its weapons programs.