In 2011, an Iranian electronic warfare unit took over control of a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and landed it with minimal damage. Since, then the Iranian regime has refused to return the drone to the U.S. Department of Defense, as Iran stated its airspace was violated. In the meantime, Iranian engineers were feverishly trying to reverse-engineer the RQ-170 and create the Saeqeh (Thunderbolt). The difference is, the Saeqeh is also a bomber and not just an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform.
According to one analyst, the equipment used to jam the signal of the UAV to its operator was provided by Russia to Iran. That source mentioned on Twitter that: “Two 1L222 Avtobaza-M ELINT units were sold to Iran by Russia. One of them was handed over to IRIADF & the other to IRGC|ASF. (They later sold 8 more).” He also claims Iran provided the captured drone tech to Russia, and that it was utilized in the development of an Okhotnik-B stealth UAV. However, this seems unlikely since MiG has been developing a similar model since 2005.
On February 21st, in the western Iranian city of Hamedan, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), detailed that: “Seven to eight drones that had constant flights over Syria and Iraq were brought under our control and their intel was monitored by us and we could gain their first-hand intel.”
Fars News published a video that shows full-motion video (FMV) that had been captured by several UAVs. However, unlike the incident in 2011, General Hajizadeh claims they gained access to the control stations on the ground, which would be a massive security breach.
List of captured UAVs:
- Scan Eagle
The footage, shows different locations and targets but most interestingly, it shows a crash-landing and destruction of one drone by an airstrike. This incident likely happened in Syria in July of 2016 when an MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed. According to the U.S. Air Force, at the time, the Reaper crashed because of an operator losing control and not due to “enemy fire.” The reaper was subsequently destroyed by a “coalition aircraft.”