Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel

Second US drone shot down by Iran over Persian Gulf

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s state TV said Tuesday that the country’s Revolutionary Guard has captured a U.S. drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.

The report quoted the Guard’s navy chief, Gen. Ali Fadavi, as saying that the Iranian forces caught the “intruding” drone, which had apparently taken off from a U.S. aircraft carrier.

Fadavi said the unmanned Scan Eagle aircraft was now in Iran’s possession.


“The U.S. drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard’s navy air defense unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace,” Fadavi said. “Such drones usually take off from large warships.”

He didn’t provide any further details nor said when the incident happened. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain.

If true, the seizure of the drone would be the third reported incident involving Iran and U.S. drones in the past two years.

Last month, Iran claimed that a U.S. drone had violated its airspace. Pentagon said the unmanned aircraft came under fire — at least twice but was not hit — and that the Predator was over international waters.

The Nov. 1 shooting in the Gulf was unprecedented, and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear program. Tehran denies it’s pursuing a nuclear weapon and insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

In 2011, Iran claimed it brought down a CIA spy drone after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which is equipped with stealth technology, was captured almost intact. Tehran later said it recovered data from the top-secret drone.

In the case of the Sentinel, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.


Iran’s shiny new Venezuelan Drone Factory

Iran is planning to build drones for the Venezuelan military. Just so you know, it sounds worse than it is. Sure it isn’t.. From WiredThat’s according to Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, chief of U.S. forces in South America. According to Fraser, who spoketo reporters in Washington on Wednesday, the drones are to be manufactured in Venezuela with Iranian help and will likely be used for “internal defense.” The exact kind of drones isn’t clear. But the robots are probably too small to be armed.

“I would put it in the ScanEagle class of UAV,” Fraser told U.S. News & World Reports military blog DOTMIL. “It’s not up into the Predator class.”

The ScanEagle is a small, unarmed, catapult-launched U.S. spy drone used by special operations forces. If Iran’s design for the drone’s speed and range are comparable, it’s highly, highly unlikely the flimsy robot could reach Miami from Venezuela to snap some pictures or take some video. Even allowing for the theoretical possibility that an aircraft built to loiter could max out its engine, top speeds and fuel supply for the 1,200-mile trip, it couldn’t go north of Florida, and it definitely couldn’t make it home.

In other words, don’t expect the skies above Sheboygan to fill up with Iranian killing machines under the order of Hugo Chavez. Assuming Venezuela could get them off the ground: Fraser said a fire recently broke out at the drone’s manufacturing plant, delaying its production. But think of it this way: an actual Iranian-Venezuelan drone factory exists, representing an upgrade in industrial cooperation from earlier joint projects like dairy plants and a tractor factory.

More seriously, U.S. officials also don’t know if technology acquired from a CIA-operated drone that crashed in Iran last year has made it into the design. Routine drone design characteristics, like engines, are easy to duplicate, but the advanced sensors and other secret gear on the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” are a different matter. The Iranians may not know how to even use the software or get past potential (classified) anti-tamper measures.

It’s also not likely to change the balance of Latin American drone power. Brazil has spent more than $350 million on advanced Israeli-made drones for surveillance operations above the Amazon rainforest and along Brazil’s long, porous borders. Israel has also prohibited Brazil, which depends on its relationship with Israeli firms for their drone designs, from selling the drones to Chavez.

Whatever their specifications, the new drones are tailor made to sew panic in Congress and the blogosphere about the Venezuela-Iran Legion of Doom. In February, a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee raised concerns about “the threat to U.S. national security posed by Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities in our own Western Hemisphere,” said committee chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. The committee pointed to media reports suggesting increased activity in Latin America by Hezbollah and the Iranian Qods Force.

The Obama administration is rolling its eyes. “People talk about Hezbollah. They talk about Iranian support for weapons and the rest. I guarantee you, Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States,” Vice President Joe Biden, who is spending the week in Mexico and Honduras, said on Wednesday. Last May, the administration also denied (now discredited) reports Iran was building a long-range missile base in Venezuela.

But it is a sign that the Venezuelan military is increasing its ties to Iran. Before, the extent of Iranian-Venezuelan cooperation was primarily limited to rhetorical attacks on the U.S. and poorly-managed joint economic projects. ”They are working to build diplomatic relations [and] international support to counter the sanctions,” Fraser said.

Joint military projects are an important feature of such relationships. But surveillance drones are still a military project. It’s a bit riskier than just another tractor factory.

by Robert Beckhusen


Tehran mocks US with $4 drone toys

Morality police also intensify drive against Barbie-led ‘cultural invasion’

Miniature toy models of the US drone RQ-170 with a slogan quoted by Iran’s late founder of the Islamic, Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, reading in Farsi: “We will step on the United states”.

Tehran: Toy shelves in Tehran will be making room for a new design that will make some Iranians smile and US officials grind their teeth: a scale model of the American stealth drone that Iran brought down in early December.


Iranian officials trumpeted an “intelligence coup” when they brought down the top-secret batwing craft that had been on a CIA spying mission over Iran’s nuclear facilities.“As a joke I will probably buy one, because it would take the sting out of the reality, as a kind of relief”

Tehran resident

An Iranian engineer working to unlock the secrets of the drone told the Monitor at the time how Iranian electronic warfare specialists had “spoofed” the drone’s GPS navigation system, causing it to land in Iran.

Now that event has been immortalised in a 1:80 scale model of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Though Sentinel models are already on the international market, Iran’s come in an array of bright colours and atop a stand engraved with the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – the father of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution: “We will trample America under our feet.”

“What is annoying are the toy shop tactics, when we have such serious issues to confront,” says a Tehran resident who asked not to be named. She noted drums-of-war rhetoric coming from the US, Israel, and Iran; the covert war against Iran’s nuclear programme; and mounting sanctions.

One for Obama

“Our savings have lost 40 per cent of their value in a season, and they are making drone toys!” she says. “As a joke I will probably buy one, because it would take the sting out of the reality, as a kind of relief.”

The models began release last week, and the makers say they have already set aside a pink one for President Obama – who has asked for Iran to return the original US craft.

“He said he wanted it back, and we will send him one,” Reza Kioumarsi, the head of cultural production at the Ayeh Art group was quoted as saying on Iranian state radio.

Production is set at 2,000 models a day, selling for the equivalent of $4 (Dh14.68) each.

Military option

The drone capture was presented in Tehran as the most significant response so far to recent setbacks for Iran that have included killings of nuclear scientists, the Stuxnet computer worm that disrupted uranium enrichment, and unexplained blasts at missile and industrial sites.

Neither the US nor Israel has taken the military option off the table to prevent Iran building a nuclear weapon. Iran says it has no intention of doing so, but wants to peacefully produce nuclear power.

“They are so kitsch — they are kitschifying [America] and they are kitschifying the drone,” says the Tehran resident. “What other espionage agency in the world celebrates a day for itself? Or puts up billboards which say: “Talk to us about your security concerns.”

The drone model enters a cultural arena already hotly contested in Iran, where regime ideologues have battled “Westoxication” for a generation.

Top of the target list for toys have often been Barbie dolls, with their busty proportions and array of clothes and accessories seen as symbols of a permissive Western lifestyle.

In recent weeks, Iranian officials have renewed their protest at this Barbie-led “cultural invasion,” decrying it as part of a “soft war” against Iran’s religious values.

One Tehran shopkeeper said that morality police visited three weeks ago “asking us to remove all the Barbies.” Past crackdowns have sought to remove Barbies from toy shelves they shared with Batman and Power Rangers and a host of other US- and European-style toys.

More than a decade ago, Iranian educational officials decried Barbie as “like the wooden horse of Troy with many cultural invading soldiers inside it.”

Another crackdown against such “spiritual pollutants” was launched in 2002, on the Barbie dolls that have often — despite their higher cost, and questionable legality — been openly displayed in toy shops.

Sara and Dara Iran’s effort since 1999 to make its own version of Barbie and Ken — an Islamically appropriate pair known as Sara and Dara, with the girl in a headscarf — have not been big hits because they are heavier and stiffer.— Christian Science Monitor