Home inContext Iran Says it Will Decode U.S. Drone Technology

Iran Says it Will Decode U.S. Drone Technology

Samara Greenberg

Experts are in the final stages of recovering data from the drone that went down inside Iran earlier this month, according to reports from inside the country. Iranian MP Parviz Sorouri, who sits on Iran’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Monday the regime will use the information gleaned from inspecting the drone to file a lawsuit against the U.S. for invading Iranian territory. Sorouri also claimed that Iran will be able to reverse-engineer and “mass produce” the drone in the near future.

There was confusion when the aircraft went down, as Iran reported both that it landed the drone through a cyber attack and also that it shot down the unmanned aircraft. U.S. military sources since confirmed that the Iranians are in possession of the advanced RQ-170 Sentinel drone, but they say it was not a result of Iranian doing. Rather, multiple theories have been put forth, with initial reactions being that the aircraft malfunctioned and “wandered” into Iranian air space after losing contact with its operators during a mission over neighboring Afghanistan. Those initial assessments, however, are now being questioned.

A photo released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows what Iranian officials say is an American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Of course, the reports of a wandering drone leave analysts wondering why the aircraft didn’t return to its base as it is designed to do if it loses contact with its handlers, or why the drone lacks a kill switch.

According to sources, President Obama turned down plans from the Pentagon to enter Iran and either retrieve the RQ-170 or destroy it. He reportedly was concerned that doing so would be considered an act of war. But one must question if taking the repercussions from entering Iran to destroy the drone would have produced a better outcome than allowing Tehran access to the best of American stealth technology.

There’s no knowing if Iranian engineers will be able to understand what they are looking at, as they claim, when it comes to the drone. Nevertheless, obtaining the high-tech drone was a victory for Iran, and decoding and replicating its technology, or even selling it for inspection by either China or Russia, would be a game changer in the region.