Iran Debuts Combat Drone Based on Captured U.S. Technology

This photo released on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, shows a new attack drone called Saegheh or Thunderbolt in an undisclosed location in Iran. Iranian media says the Revolutionary Guard has built a new attack drone which is similar to a U.S. drone captured five years …
Sepahnews of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards via AP

Iranian media claims Tehran’s new combat drone, the Saeqeh (“Thunderbolt”), is based on captured American technology.

Voice of America News relays a report from Iran’s Tasnim news agency describing the drone as a long-range weapon that can launch four smart bombs with “pinpoint accuracy.” The drone is portrayed as the first in a series of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles, intended for both civilian and military use.

According to Tasnim, the Saeqeh drone was made by reverse-engineering an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 that was captured in December 2011. An Iranian general claimed in 2012 that the drone contained data suggesting it had been used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, while U.S. sources spoke of using a drone aircraft to take pictures of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Qom.

“U.S. President Barack Obama asked Iran to give back the drone which belonged to American forces in neighboring Afghanistan, but Tehran said Washington should apologize for spying on the country with unmanned aircraft,” Reuters recalls.

A previous Iranian drone purportedly based on the captured RQ-170 was rolled out last November, with video of the aircraft conducting flight operations. The drone flight was praised as “a sweet and unforgettable day” by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although U.S. officials dismissed it as an inferior copy.

Reuters observes that the new drone looks much more similar to the RQ-170, but the Iranian military did not offer a demonstration of its abilities or provide specific performance details.

Fox News adds that Tansim published photos of another U.S.-made drone supposedly captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard recently but did not specify when or how it was seized.