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Iran is developing copycat fleet of stolen US, Israeli drones

Iran unveils a new indigenous stealth reconnaissance-combat drone dubbed Hamaseh on May 9, 2013. (Times Asi/Flickr)
December 28, 2018

The Iranian military is reportedly building a fleet of drones thanks to technology stolen from the U.S. and Israel.

Iran is expanding its drone fleet for airspace defense and enemy offensives, and is increasing as a global leader in drone manufacturing after capturing American and Israeli drones, Times of Israel reported, citing Al Jazeera.

“For Iran, [drones] comprise a new type of aerial fleet that avoids the technological complications of modern [manned] aviation,” the report said. “Iran has started using its UAVs for military missions that might prove difficult or even impossible for its traditional aerial fleet to accomplish,” such as “to monitor Iranian airspace and the naval fleets of its enemies.”

Iran has had more than seven years to extract the technology from a drone stolen from the U.S.

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Iran “managed to enhance its capabilities and employ the most modern technologies after it managed to take control of an American UAV and an Israeli one,” the report said.

In 2011, Iran gained control of a highly classified U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone flying over Iranian airspace and captured it.

The following year, an Iranian general admitted to extracting the technology from it.

“All the intelligence in this drone has been completely decoded and extracted and we know each and every step it has taken,” said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the Aerospace Division for the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard, according to ABC News.

The IRGC Aerospace Division displayed their new Saeqeh drone to the public in 2016 after claiming to have developed a copy of the captured RQ-170, according to Iranian state-run media outlet, PressTV.

The Saeqeh drones are believed to be copies of the U.S. RQ-170. The RQ-170 is thought to be an invulnerable drone designed for high-altitude surveillance operations with the world’s most advanced stealth technologies.

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A few years after capturing the U.S. drone, Iran also captured an Israeli drone.

In 2014, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it shot down and captured an Israeli stealth drone, Al Jazeera reported.

“The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limit nuclear area in Natanz … but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” the IRGC said.

In October 2018, Iran launched an attack on an Iranian-Arab separatist group compound in Syria, in which they used six missiles and seven drones. The attack was the first in which Iran used drones, which may have been their opportunity to test out the drone in action.

The operation may have been the test Iran needed to move forward with the expansion of their drone fleet.

An Iran aviation expert claimed Tehran “is ranked fifth in the world in the field of manufacturing [unmanned aerial vehicles].”