Iran’s military said it had shot down a U.S. drone aircraft in eastern Iran on Sunday, a military source told state television.
"Our air defense and electronic warfare units managed to identify and shoot down an advanced unmanned spy aircraft - an RQ-170 - after it briefly violated the eastern border territory," Fars said, quoting an unnamed military source.
The Fars news agency, which has close ties to the Revolutionary Guards responsible for Iran's air defense and ballistic missile systems, said the drone had made an incursion into Iran's eastern airspace.
“The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian Armed Forces,” the source added.
Iran warned that shooting down U.S. drones, in response to U.S. violation of its airspace, would be carried out outside Iran’s borders, Fars agency reported.
But a U.S. official later said that Washington had no indication that a drone that had crashed in Iran had actually been shot down.
“There is absolutely no indication up to this point that Iranians shot down this drone,” the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said the drone the Iranians claim to have shot down may be an unarmed surveillance drone that was lost last week while flying over western Afghanistan.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said in a statement: “The UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week.
“The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status.”
Drones are routinely used by U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency to observe military activity in the region.
U.S. drones have also been used to launch missile strikes in Yemen as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, AFP reported.
At the start of this year, Iran had announced that its forces had downed 2 U.S. drones after they violated Iranian-controlled airspace and that it would put the aircraft on public display.
Source: Fars; Reuters; AFP - Photo: Reuters