Iranian state TV broadcast video on Thursday of what it said was the high-tech US drone that Tehran says its forces downed earlier this week, and lodged a diplomatic complaint over the violation of its airspace.
The more than two minutes of footage showed Iranian military officials inspecting what state TV identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and offered the first evidence that Tehran had captured the aircraft. The beige-colored drone appeared intact and undamaged.
The Chief of the Aerospace Division of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, claimed Iranian Forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.
“It was downed through a joint operation by the Guards and Iran’s regular army,” he told state television.
Tehran appeared to be using the video footage to score propaganda points, and a banner at the foot of the drone in the video read “The US cannot do a damn thing” - a quotation from Iran’s late Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Another banner was printed to look like the American flag, but had skulls instead of stars.
In Washington, Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said US military officials and others were studying the imagery but would have no further comment. “We’re just not going to talk about these kinds of missions and these kinds of capabilities,” Kirby said.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said the Defense Department would not be saying whether the Iranian images are that of the US drone.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador on Thursday to protest the drone’s “invasion” of Iranian airspace, according to state TV. It said the Ministry demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.
The US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, and Switzerland represents American interests in Iran.
Iran first reported the downing on Sunday but did not say when the incident happened. At the time, the official IRNA news agency said Iran’s armed forces had shot it down — a claim later rejected by US officials who said the drone crashed over the weekend but that there was no indication it had been shot down.
Iranian state radio has said the unmanned aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the border with Afghanistan.
The RQ-170 Sentinel, made by Lockheed Martin, has been used in Afghanistan for years. It gained notoriety earlier this year when officials disclosed that one was used to keep watch Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as the raid that killed him was taking place.