Downed U.S. Drone Turns Up on Iranian TV

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Drone. Photo: SepahNews

A super sci-fi-looking C.I.A. drone called the RQ-170 Sentinel, one of which helped with the Osama Bin Laden raid, was lost over Iran on Sunday, when the Iranian government claimed to have shot it down, possibly while it was collecting intelligence on their nuclear program. Today the "unarmed bat-winged aircraft" appeared on television in Iran looking shiny and new. The Times reports that the drone was "displayed on a platform clearly constructed for propaganda purposes, with photos of Iran’s revolutionary ayatollahs on the wall behind it and a desecrated version of the American flag, with what appeared to be skulls instead of stars, underneath its left wing." Sort of sore-winner behavior, no? Iran has also filed an official diplomatic protest against the alleged spying.

Iran's Fars News Agency reports:

The drone was programmed to destroy such data in the event of a malfunction, but it failed to do so. The blow has been so heavy that the US officials do not still want to accept that Iran brought down the plane by a cyberattack. Instead, explanations have focused on potential technical failures. The aircraft cover great distances and depend on satellite links. A lost connection or other malfunction could cause them to turn back home or start automatic explosion.

In this video clip, a commander from the Revolutionary Guard Corps explains the untarnished device by saying it "was detected by Iranian radars as soon as it entered Iranian airspace and was brought down by Iran’s military systems with the minimum damage possible." U.S. military experts see the claim as dubious: "It would be almost impossible for Iran to shoot down an RQ-170 because it is stealthy, therefore, the Iranian air defenses can't see it," said one analyst. "Partly for the same reason, it is exceedingly unlikely that they used a cyber attack to bring down the aircraft."

American officials have confirmed that the drone's controllers lost contact with the aircraft, and experts are currently examining the news footage to determine its veracity. Wouldn't it be worse if it were actually the aliens who have it? It looks like something they would want.