Iran claims it shot down ‘Beast of Kandahar’ stealth drone

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Devin Leonard says:

    Iran says alot of things, most of it is bull. Iran likes to take credit for doing all kinds of stuff against out military most of which is just Irainian bravado. The last time Iran messed around with our military that I was witness too was there operations in Iraq, in which Delta killed and captured several quds force members back in 2005 or so….Iran has a track record of getting bested by our military, not the other way around

  • Marlin says:

    I have to admit that I’m highly skeptical the Iranian military could accomplish any such thing. This sort of response from the American military only reinforces my skepticism.

    The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement the aircraft may be an American drone that its operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighboring western Afghanistan.
    A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the incident, said the U.S. HAD “absolutely no indication” that the drone was shot down.

    Associated Press: Iran says it shot down unmanned US spy plane

  • DarkMath says:

    The Serbs shot down a F-117 Stealth Fighter in the nineties. They use long wave radar to do it. That’s the kind of radar used by Weather stations to pick up precipitation.
    Longer wave radars can thus be fooled by things like birds and clouds. But there aren’t a lot of clouds in that part of the world. And also the software to run the radar, purchased from the Russians no doubt, can be written to only look at object traveling > say 400 miles an hour.
    Stealth technology isn’t invincible and I think the more its used the more that is going to be apparent….

  • Matt says:

    The bigger question is did the Iranians jam the signal? Or, did they take over control?

  • TLA says:

    Frankly, I don’t care how it came down, and doubt the Iranians had anything to do with it. THeir techies could do more than take it apart. Saying which, it’s obvious that they’ll be getting something for flogging its parts to interested parties.

  • Ken Gibson says:

    Is it possible that Iran hacked the software and took control and landed it in Iran?

  • James says:

    Devin, thank you and all the others like you for your service and sacrifice(s).
    “The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces.”
    What a joke of a claim that is. How can a plane like that be “shot down” and yet show “little damage”?

  • Peter says:

    Maybe some day we’ll develop the technology for a self-destruct system that can be activated via satellite.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    Thank You for your gratitude James. I am always thankfull for people who express appreciation for the US military and the soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, in any capacity.

  • al says:

    If Iran hacked into control systems after we lost contact, that is VERY serious stuff. Have they provided verifiable pictures to show they have it? And in good condition?
    US can’t seem to keep a lid and safeguard sensitive technology and even field operatives. Isthere a serious traitor in CIA/Military. Is the PC push to hire more Arabic and Farsi speaking people too dangerous? Are these people really (100% of them) trustworthy and loyal? OR, is it just imcompetence on our part.

  • LB says:

    ”A U.S. satellite quickly pinpointed the downed drone, which apparently sustained significant damage, the senior official said.
    “The Iranians have a pile of rubble and are trying to figure what they have and what to do with it,” the senior U.S. official said. The drone crashed solely because its guidance system failed, the official said. Officials confirmed to CNN it was an RQ-170 drone that was lost.
    Another U.S. official confirmed that when the drone crashed, the United States briefly considered all potential options for retrieving the aircraft or bombing the wreckage, but those ideas were quickly discarded as impractical…”

  • JimBoMo says:

    Has anyone seen any discussion (official or off-record) that the drone was actually a RQ-170? Any crash/wreckage pics?
    I CAN believe that a Predator or Reaper or anyone of a zillion other different drones went UA. But an RQ-170? Really? THAT smells of Iranian hyperbole.
    I find it very hard to believe that an RQ-170 went off the reservation…Color me skeptical.

  • Brian Higgins says:

    At this point in time I am convinced the “crash” was deliberate. I have a reason for that opinion, but since nobody else has suggested it, I will keep my idea to myself. I will say this: I was doubtful when the story broke. The number of redundant reports in the media looked like disinformation to me.

  • Moon Mullin says:

    Seeing the photos from Iran, I don’t think it survived in one piece. Look at the seams between the body and the wings, looks like plumber’s putty was used on the seams, and not milspec finished, same with “hatch” behind the hump on the fuselage.
    At $6,000,000+ each, you would think there would have been a ‘working’ self-destruction mechanism or a self contained homing device when it would lose the “link”
    Moon Mullin

  • ERic says:

    IF the drone was “taken over” then NO plane(military/civilian) is safe. ANY of them can have their electronics/avionics, etc. “Taken over”
    You would think that such a possibility would be factored into the drones design, but I guess the military industrial complex is so smug and full of itself that it was not factored in, and now the blame game begins. America’s second favorite sport. Number one is law suits. Number two is deny deny deny then pass the buck.

  • Rod says:

    I think I will chew on the assumption that this was a Trojan horse of sorts before I entertain any more grandiose theories of Persian advanced technology.


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