Four Iranian RQ-170 drones to become operational by year-end
Tehran, Iran, Nov. 12
By Milad Fashtami - Trend:
Four domestic versions of the RQ-170 drone will become operational in Iran by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2015).
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said that Iran will never return the captured US RQ-170 drone to Washington, Iran's Fars News Agency reported on Nov. 12.
"However, if the sanctions are lifted, we may decide to give one Iranian version of the drone to the Americans," he said. "We managed to build our own version of the drone in just 3 years."
Hajizadeh said on Nov. 10 that the domestic version of the captured American RQ-170 drone has passed the flight test.
"A video showing the flight test of the stealth drone will be released soon," he said.
Iran unveiled the domestic version of the sophisticated drone in May. The US RQ-170 was reverse-engineered by IRGC experts.
The RQ-170 is an unmanned stealth aircraft designed and developed by the Lockheed Martin Company.
The aircraft was downed with minimal damage by the Iranian Army's electronic warfare unit on December 4, 2011, while flying over the Iranian city of Kashmar, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) from the Afghan border, Iranian media outlets claimed.
Although US officials never confirmed it, Iran says it used its radio electronic warfare skills and vulnerabilities in the Sentinel's GPS receiver to trick it into landing on Iranian territory instead of its designated military base. The claims are considered plausible by many, since the drone did not sustain any visible damage during its alleged crash-landing.
Last year, Iranian officials announced progress on reverse-engineering the captured Sentinel drone, saying that they has completed decoding its software and extracting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) surveillance data from it.
Iranian media outlets report that Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems in recent years. Tehran established an arms development program during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s to counter the weapons embargo imposed on it by the U.S. and its Western allies.
Since 1992, Iran has manufactured its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, radars, boats, submarines and fighter planes. Iran also unveiled its first domestically-manufactured long-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in 2010.