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U.S. Navy Denies Iran 'Captured' Drone

December 04, 2012


The U.S. Navy has denied that any of its unmanned spy planes is missing in the Middle East, despite reports that Iran has "captured" a U.S. drone.

Iranian state media carried an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps statement on December 4 saying the drone, a Boeing-designed ScanEagle, was intercepted while "performing reconnaissance and gathering intelligence" in Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.

The statement did not give details on the time or location of the claimed drone capture.

State television networks Al-Alam and Press TV showed footage of what they said was the captured drone.

Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said ScanEagles operated by the Navy "have been lost into the water" in the past, but there is no "record of that occurring most recently."

The conflicting accounts prompted speculation that the drone claimed by Iran could have been found in the sea in the past.

Several other countries use the relatively low-cost ScanEagle unmanned planes, including U.S. allies the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Canada, all of which operate in the gulf.

U.S. forces in Iraq also used ScanEagles before their withdrawal in October 2011.

Last month, Iran said it fired on but failed to stop a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf. Tehran said that aircraft had entered its airspace.

The Pentagon confirmed the unmanned aircraft came under fire at least twice but was not hit, adding that that the Predator drone was over international waters.

The November 1 shooting in the gulf further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.

One year ago, on December 4, Iran claimed to have captured a much larger and more sophisticated CIA stealth drone, an RQ-170 Sentinel.

Tehran rejected a U.S. request for its return and said it would reverse-engineer that drone to make its own.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and BBC


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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