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A screen image from the video released by Iranian TV of what the military there claims is a captured U.S. drone. (Press TV)

U.S. Disputes Iran's Claim To Have Captured Drone

Dec 4, 2012

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Mark Memmott

The U.S. Navy says all its drones are "fully accounted for" — casting doubt on Iran's claim to have captured one of the small spycraft after it allegedly flew into Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian claim is detailed in a video report from the state-controlled Press TV. As you can see in the video, Iran is showing off a small, unmarked drone as its evidence. The narrator tells viewers that Iranian officials say the drone came off an aircraft carrier.

According to The New York Times, in the video "what seemed to be an intact ScanEagle [was] being inspected by Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps naval forces. The drone was displayed in front of a large map of the Persian Gulf with a text in English and Persian saying : 'We will trample the U.S. under our feet.' "

"If true," The Associated Press writes, "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. ...

"In late 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 it had been 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."

Update at 1:45 p.m. ET. If Iran Did Capture A Drone, It May Be A Case Of "Spoofing."

The Christian Science Monitor notes that its correspondent, Scott Peterson, reported last year that after Iran got hold of the RQ-170 Sentinel one of its engineers claimed that experts had:

"Guided the CIA's 'lost' stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military, according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone's systems inside Iran."

The technique, called "spoofing," reconfigures a drone's GPS coordinates "to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home," according to the Monitor.

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