"Three U.S. and four Israeli drones captured in Iran to be put on display soon": Tehran Times says. "Downed" RQ-170 saga continues

Tehran Times reported that Iran is about to put on display “foreign spy drones in Iran’s possession” within an exhibition that will also showcase the “latest domestically manufacture electronic warfare equipment”, and national reporters and foreign ambassadors will be allowed to visit them.

According to a source close to the Iranian newspaper, the foreign robots in the hands of the  ayatollahs’ regime are three U.S. and four Israeli drones.

“the four Israeli drones that are now in Iran’s possession had violated the country’s airspace along the eastern borders, and the three U.S. unmanned aircraft had penetrated into the country’s airspace along either the eastern or southern border.”

The news arrives in the aftermath of the capture of a stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, so far considered the most advanced (known) U.S. drone, the first to be displayed after several claims of American ‘bots downed while spying uranium enrichment sites as part of the covert war against Iran’s nuclear program.

Interestingly, the same article discloses for the first time what everyone already knew: a number of countries have reportedly asked for permission to inspect the “Beast of Kandahar”.

While waiting for new images to analyze, there are still many questions to be answered about the capture of the stealthy Sentinel.

An interesting document titled “Report on Operating Next-Generation Remotely Piloted Aircraft for Irregular Warfare”  published by the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in April 2011 and made available by Public Intelligence a couple of days ago, provides some interesting (and official) assesement about the reliability of the communication link between the drone and the ground control station.

According to the document, U.S. drone are subject to the following threats (excerpt):

  • Jamming of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) links is a widely available technology.  It can provide an effective tool for adversaries against data links or as a way for comma nd and control (C2) denial.
  • Operational needs may require the use of  unencrypted data links to provide broadcast services to ground troops without security  clearances.  Eavesdropping on these links is a known exploit that is  available to adversaries for extremely low cost.
  • Spoofing or hijacking links that can lead to damaging missions, or even to platform loss.

Dealing with the threat to Position, Navigation and Guidance the documents undelines that:

“There is a wide range of methods that a determined adversary can use for  attacking RPA guidance and navigation systems.  The report mentions here only three  categories of threats without going into the details:

  • Small, simple GPS noise jammers can be  easily constructed and employed by an unsophisticated adversary and would be  effective over a limited RPA operating area.
  • GPS repeaters are also available for corrupting navigation capabilities of RPAs.
  • Cyber threats represent a major challenge for future RPA operations.  Cyber attacks can affect both on-board and ground systems, and exploits may range from asymmetric CNO attacks to highly sophisticated electronic systems and software attacks.”

So, what may have happened to the Sentinel?

We can only speculate. The drone may have suffered a lost-link event because of a technical failure (link losses occurs every now and then) or an attack from Iran. Following the loss of satellite link, the procedure foresees that the drone switches to automatic flying and heads towards a preplanned set of waypoints to fly a loop until link is re-established or fuel finishes (with consequent crash).

As I think (and hope) that the preplanned waypoint for lost-link procedure for a mission inside the enemy airspace is set inside the friendly airspace (in order to prevent it from crashing “behind the enemy lines”) I can’t explain why the drone crashed in Iran and not in Afghanistan.

Unless, Iran was really able to corrupt the stealthy robot’s navigational system using jammers and rogue GPS repeaters guiding it in the wrong direction.

04:00PM GMT Dec 15 update

Something that came to my mind while discussing this post with Guido Olimpio, Corriere della Sera correspondent from the U.S.: Tehran is going to show the remains of 7 drones (4 American and 3 Israeli robots) “downed” in Iran. But, if they were flying inside the Iranian airspace they had to be stealth ones.  Shall we expect something never seen before?

BTW: the exhibition could something like the Tishreen War Panorama museum in Damascus, Syria, that I visited few years ago, where wreckage of Israeli planes and parts of them, were showcased.

Stay tuned.

This, along with all the previous articles on the Sentinel drone in Iran, can be found at the following link: https://theaviationist.com/category/captured-stealth-drone/

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Maybe the drone did crash in Afghanistan and was handed over to Iran…or maybe it was meant to be taken…technological Trojan horse so to speak…if encrypted communication can be accomplished using calcium and pheromones most anything is possible… two great papers below offer great insight regarding stealth communication facilitated by nanotechnology…

    Akyildi, Ian F. and Lluís Parcerisa Giné. Molecular Communication Options for Long Range Nanonetworks. August 6, 2009. http://www.ece.gatech.edu/research/labs/bwn/nanos/papers/long_range09.pdf

    Akyildiz, Ian F. Nano Communications: An Overview. 2009. http://www.n3cat.upc.edu/nanoday/nanoday09-ifa.pdf

  2. ‘Rogue GPS repeaters’ should not be required.

    What is required is a ‘GPS simulator’ (commercially avialable) and a power amplifier for it (inexpensive), and something to jam the main control channel (should be relatively easy to overpower).

    GPS signals are insanely weak (original satellites, IIRC, are 37 watts) and received signals are below the noise floor. A terrestrial transmitter of even a few watts should be entirely adequate to overpower the satellites and spoof the drones’ navigation systems.

    Inertial navigation systems in drones would be substantially more resistant to this, but they’re much more expensive.

  3. The Real Report about US Dron in IRAN

    this is another report from well known Iranian “Dr Khazali”

    He has deleted his report from his website but it is yet is Google cache:


    he says that it was just a happening and some sheep-keepers reported this airplane to government.

    Dr. Khazali was in the jail in Iran because he is one of the Green Revolution Member.

    He reports that U.S. Drone were seen accidentally by some sheep-keepers, because it was very shiny in the desert and sheep-keepers were afraid to go closer, so they reported it to police and police reported it to Revolutionary Guard

    and they came and they took all mobiles and recorded films from all people in the scene. Dr. Khazali is in Iran and usually is being THREATEN to death because of his openions in his personal website at http://www.drkhazali.com

    This is the DELETED PAGE in PDF in Persian, and I am sure he was pushed to do that:


    n this page you can see that “Dr. Khazali” answers (Persian Language) to viewers` question about deleting the posts about US Dron.

    He says that he has been pushed to delete them because of Iran National Security Issues.


  4. The drone was meant to taken over. iranian techs would try to pry into its systems and by doing so had released the virus intended to sabotaged the nuclear reactor systems/programme.

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