Iran has flown its version of the captured U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone modified to bomb US Navy warships

Nov 10 2014 - 23 Comments

Although footage has yet to be released, Tehran claims a domestically modified RQ-170 Sentinel has already made its maiden flight.

Update Nov. 12, 2014: a video has been released. Click here.

On May 11, Iran unveiled a copy of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) drone allegedly manufactured by reverse-engineering of U.S. Sentinel drone captured in December 2011. The Iranian version of the Sentinel drone was displayed next to the one that crash landed in northeastern Iran about three years ago for reasons that are still unknown.

In February 2013, a video proved that they had accessed some of the data stored inside the so-called “Beast of Kandahar”: after several unsubstantiated claims, the footage was the first evidence that Iran had managed to retrieve something from the once secret drone’s internal hard disks.

“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reversed engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander General Hossein Salami said to the Fars News Agency last year.

On Nov. 10, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told the press that the Iranian version of the RQ-170 drone, modified to carry out both bombing and reconnaissance missions, has already had its maiden flight.

“The footage of its flight will be released soon,” Hajizadeh told reporters according to FARS News.

Whereas the first prototype was a smaller copy of the Sentinel (60% the size of the original RQ-170) which flew about four months ago, the final model is a full-scale, reverse-engineered stealthy drone, equipped with special parts required to carry bombs. Weapons to be used “against the US warships in any possible showdown between the two countries.

According to the Iranians the American drone was brought down by the Iranian Armed Forces’ electronic warfare unit which hacked into the RQ-170 remote control systems and ordered the aircraft to land in the eastern part of the country.

Even though such claims are still debated, especially in the light of other alleged achievements by Tehran (as the infamous F-313 Qaher stealth fighter jet), Iran has really showcased some almost intact UAV types in the recent past: two RQ-11s and at least one ScanEagle that had penetrated the Iranian airspace from the Persian Gulf.

Anyway, while there are chances that the engine, circuitry, lenses, memories and sensors that survived the crash landing of the CIA-operated RQ-170 might have been evaluated, tested, copied and, possibly, improved with the help of Russia and China, it’s hard to believe such hardware and remaining data have allowed Iran to move as much as 35 years ahead in building drones or their components.  Especially if we consider that, unlike the X-47B and some black UAV projects like the RQ-180, the RQ-170 is no longer the American cutting edge robot tech.

Image credit: Tasmin News


  • BruceMichaelGrant

    Strike ONE US ship, lose one Iranian ship.
    Last time I looked, we had more ships than Iran does.
    I’m pretty sure we have more NUKES. Want to play that game too?

    • sarbaz vatan

      Dot even think about it.
      we’re gonna hunt you with this.

      • BruceMichaelGrant

        Were you in a coma during the last fifteen years? There’s a lot of dead Iraqi soldiers and Taliban roasting in Hell who prove you don’t have a #$%$ clue about our capabilities.
        Didn’t your daddy tell you about bringing a big mouth to a Tomahawk fight? L my FAO.

  • P.Act

    This claim means that there has been no progress made in the nuclear talks between Mullahs and P5+1


    Not a cutting edge drone !

    But cutting edge systems …

    • Physicist

      The design is much newer than F-22, so I would consider it cutting-edge.

  • Tom Jones

    No images of the Maiden flight yet?

  • Fitzgrimbel von Hotz

    Oh yeah it’s not the cutting edge. It’s generally assumed RQ-170 development started some time around 2004 – 10 years ago.

    This means it’s one of the newest *designs* you can get your hand on. The design of the B-2, F-22, F-35 is much older. Don’t forget the F-22 prototype flew in 1991 and that’s how old the design is.

    So this whole matter is nothing to laugh at.

    Also consider that the Chinese may do the hard work but deliver some of the result to Iran. If Iran uses that in military operations there you have plausible deniability for China.

    Still I wouldn’t underestimate the Iranians in general. Sure we have all the stupid stuff like “Qaher 313”.

    Here’s some food for thought: What if the Iranians are deliberately releasing nonsense claims about fairy-tale weapons systems to create a smoke screen for their real developments? Who really knows what the Iranians can and can’t do right now, and what their real directions of development are? Who knows what to take seriously, and how do you convince Western decision makers that something is a real threat when we’ve seen so many fake threats?

    And no-one wants to have a repeat of the Saddam WMD fiasco so we wait until we’re extra sure they really DO have them ;)

    The developing trend is that the U.S. are littering the entire world with their technology and everyone can pick it clean for their purposes.

    While we have to admit we have hardly a f****ing clue what the cutting-edge capabilities of China, Iran etc really are.

  • William Dix

    Given the past record of overblown claims and outright lies by our Iranian friends of their capabilities and mastery of technology excuse me if I take this latest bit of propaganda with a large grain of salt.

  • OG_Locc

    I hope the “footage” is more convincing than the F-313 “footage” they released. LMAO

  • FlyingBarrister

    The people running Iran are not “our friends.” They are not the friends of at least half the Iranian population, and they are not the friends of the civilized world.

    One would think that the people running things and making the decisions at USAF would have the common sense and foresight to program a drone operating in a denied, hostile environment to do something other than land at an airfield in the event of a problem. Self-destruction would be the preferred (and only reasonable) protocol in such circumstances.

    Programming it to land itself in the event of a problem in friendly territory would be acceptable, but not in denied territory.

    The peculiar thing is that Iran could be a more insidious enemy if the mullahs did not have to vent their venom for the rest of the world as they do and ostensibly expand the revolution. Iran has a wealth of oil and gas, and could be improving production and refining it, and selling high value products. Further, with all the gas, they could generate cheap electricity and facilitate industrial development. Cheap energy goes a long way toward building industry and wealth, and with it, Iran would be harder to control.

    The fact that Iran has so much gas and hydrocarbons in general and could more easily produce high volumes of electricity with it than a nuclear program built from scratch tells us all that we need to know about its true intent for a nuclear program. A nuclear program for energy in Iran’s situation simply makes no sense.

  • some guy

    Photoshop is for photos…

  • Physicist

    The disaster is the leakage of the genuine stealth technology which was in hands of US only.

  • Iranian RQ 170

    watch the flight today at

  • Cyrus

    Still in doubt and rather ignorance??! The Iranian RQ170 , out and about , flying over Persian Gulf! Haven’t you seen its flight yet? To make sure it was the real one, not the pathetic “photoshoped” comment!

  • OllyDBG

  • Iranian RQ 170

    Flight watch/download link:
    The page is in Persian, just click on RQ 170

    The conversation of reporter with the deputy of IRIGC aerospace force is in Persian. The Iranian RQ 170 version is asked to be named by the Iranians.

    Any questions, please do not hesitate.

  • Iranian RQ 170

    The Iranian RQ 170 color is black! very smart , very cool!!!!

  • Iranian RQ 170

    This black drone is a combat version. It is reverse engineered and redesigned according to the requirement of Iran. It has no metals and enjoys a greater speed and flight continuance. Different types are under construction for various missions, some with jet or turboprop engines etc.

  • ck
  • Its probably reasonable enough to assume that their reverse engineered drone flies but I doubt it has the same stealth or operational capabilities as the American original. At best, they’ve just ended up with a remote controlled flying wing

  • jack

    So your saying u can understand more then an aircraft engineer that more that they couldn’t understand this and you just by watching this photo found that out. I guess u work in NASA.

  • jack

    Boy it seems you truly believe that your bul…. opinion is really true?? people that come here love there country. It’s not that if they diffed their country their some army criminals. And something else I saw you up voting your comment in somewhere else don’t do this it’s not good.