TEHRAN – Iran claimed on Tuesday to have captured a small US drone that penetrated its airspace over Gulf waters, but the American navy in the region denied any of its unmanned spy planes were missing.
The naval arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said in a statement that “the unmanned US drone patrolling Persian Gulf waters, performing reconnaissance and gathering intel, was captured as soon as it entered Iranian airspace.”
The statement did not say how the aircraft was captured, nor where or when the incident took place. It only said that the drone had been conducting a mission over “the past few days”.
The Guards’ naval force, tasked with guarding Iranian assets in the Gulf, said the drone was a Boeing-made ScanEagle, a short-range, propellor-driven surveillance vehicle with a 3-metre wingspan that is typically launched from ships and which can fly up to 100km.
Exactly a year ago, on December 4, Iran claimed to have captured a much bigger and more sophisticated CIA stealth drone, a bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel. Tehran rejected a US request for its return and said it would reverse-engineer that drone to make its own.
A spokesman for US Fifth Fleet, Commander Jason Salata, said that none of the fleet’s drones was missing and that “nothing (has been) lost recently, in months.”