A former top Pentagon official said that the drone Iran exhibited last week “appears to be a fake,” USA Today reported Thursday. The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press on the issue of the downed drone.
Last week, Iran said it had seized an American RQ-170 Sentinel drone that was flying over Iranian skies, using electronic disruption methods to force it down. The Sentinel is one of the most advanced drones in the world. U.S. officials have had various reactions to the story, with some saying that the drone was lost due to a malfunction, while others speculated that Russian or Chinese technology had been used to down the drone, as Iran is not believed to have the ability to do so itself.
Iran published photos of the drone, with Iranian officials surrounding it and banners displaying anti-American epithets, including "We'll trample America underfoot" and "The U.S. cannot do a damn thing." But in the interview, the former Pentagon official questioned whether the drone was really the one the Iranians claimed it was. The drone's landing gear, which would enable experts to positively identify the drone, is covered up by the banners. In addition, he said, the drone is the wrong color, and its wing joints do not conform to the stealth design that enables it to avoid radar detection.
The Pentagon has not commented on the report. U.S. President Barack H. Obama has asked Iran to return the drone, a request that was summarily denied by Iran. Speaking to Fox News, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he did not believe Iran would agree to the U.S. request, but that patrols of the Iran-Afghan border by stealth drones would continue. "Our request for return of the drone is an appropriate request," Panetta said. "I don't expect that will happen, but I think it's important to make that request."