Thanks to sophisticated reverse engineering, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force experts succeeded in replicating an advanced, U.S. radar-evading, unmanned aerial vehicle (the RQ170 stealth drone) – so announced IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari on May 11, 2014. The Iranian -manufactured replica was unveiled at a special ceremony, at which numerous examples of advanced Iranian military technology were displayed. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who attended the ceremony, commented on the drone’s “great importance for reconnaissance missions,”1 while Iranian military sources noted that the drone will soon conduct test flights.2
The exhibition displayed anti-ship Khalij Fars ballistic missiles, Zalzal missiles (including versions with cluster warheads), Fajr 5 and Sejil missiles, radar, and coastal missiles, as well as Iranian-designed UAVs, such as the Shahed 129, Shahed 121 and Shahed 125.
The focal point of the occasion dates back to December 2011, when Iran claimed that IRGC forces managed to seize on-line control of the advanced American stealth drone, claiming that it was on a spying mission against Iran and other regional states, and programmed a forced landing on Iranian soil.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the IRGC Aerospace Force Commander, stated a year ago that after the American UAV’s capture by Iranian forces, there were a few sources who believed that the United States would take steps to destroy it, adding that decrypted information in the UAV’s memory revealed that it had performed many missions over countries of the region. According to Hajizadeh, the plane was equipped with stealth technology similar to that of the B2 bomber and the advanced F35 fighter jet.3
There have been many Iranian claims in recent years that it has succeeded in constructing a number of UAVs with stealth technology. It is not clear how much truth there is in these claims, or in those that it succeeded in replicating the advanced American stealth drone that it downed. Whatever the case, Iran has evidently produced a number of models of advanced drones, some for reconnaissance and some for attack purposes. Some of these drones have been dispatched to Hizbullah, which has made use of them against Israel; others have been used by the Syrian army in its battles against rebel forces, as part of Iran’s constant flow of assistance designed to keep Bashar Assad in power.
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