by Ali Akbar Dareini | Phys.org
Iran is now capable of manufacturing its own copies of an advanced CIA spy drone captured last year, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Wednesday.
Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament’s national security committee, said experts have reverse-engineered the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and Iran now is capable of launching a production line for the unmanned aircraft.
“Iranian experts examined and analyzed the RQ-170 drone. Its parts were brought down so that all files and boards of the drone were copied and used to improve Iran’s unmanned aircraft,” he told the parliament’s website, icana.ir, on Wednesday.
Heidarpour said production of RQ-170 drone cost the U.S. around $20 billion, but the expensive technology is now in Iran’s possession through reverse engineering.
The Sentinel went down in December. Iran claimed it took control of it and landed it, but U.S. officials said the drone malfunctioned and had to land.
They eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back, but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.
Iranian officials said the data recovered from the drone showed it did not carry out any missions on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iranian officials frequently announce technological and military breakthroughs, most of which are impossible to confirm independently.
Iranian Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad Mahdinejad said last week that Iran is now exporting its domestically manufactured drones to several countries, including Syria and Venezuela.
Mahdinejad said Iran is now a global leader in drone technology and that its export of drones to other countries demonstrated of Iran’s advanced capability in designing and operating unmanned aircrafts. Heidarpour’s comment came two days after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it decoded all data from the drone that went down near Iran’s eastern border with Afghanistan.