March 3, 2015

IRAN: Iran Gives Russia Copy Of US ScanEagle Drone As Proof Of Mass Production October 21, 2013.

The Guardian, UK
written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Monday October 21, 2013

US spy drone given to prove Iran's forces have mass produced the drone they claim to have captured a year ago.

Iran has given Russia a copy of a US spy drone as proof that its elite forces have reverse-engineered and mass produced the American unmanned aerial vehicle they claim to have captured a year ago.

Iranian media reported yesterday that the copy of the ScanEagle drone was provided to Russia on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran between Farzad Esmayeeli, the air defence commander of Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards' military and industrial base, and Viktor Bondarev, head of the Russian air force.

In December 2012, a guards' commander said his forces had got their hands on a ScanEagle, promising Tehran would mass produce it. The US authorities denied those claims at the time, saying all its drones were fully accounted for.

"The drone built by the Islamic republic's Revolutionary Guards is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran and today we presented a real model of it as a gift to Russian air force … and the Russian people," Esmayeeli said after meeting with Bondarev, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Iran's state English-language newspaper, Tehran Times, said the two met on Sunday and spoke on a range of air defence issues but it did not give further details.

Iran first claimed to have captured a US drone two years ago when the Guards displayed a drone, believed to be an RQ-170 Sentinel. They claimed to have brought it down electronically but the US said the aircraft had merely malfunctioned.

Since then, Iranian officials have claimed advances in drone technology and have put on show a number of US and Israeli drones their elite forces alleged to have shot down. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said last October that a drone shot down by Israel was assembled in Lebanon but designed in Iran.

It is unclear how reliable the Iranian claims about its drone capabilities are. In September 2012, the Guards unveiled Shahed-129, an "indigenous" reconnaissance drone, alleged to have a range of up to 1,200 miles – capable of reaching Israel – and with 24 hours' fly time.

In February, Iranian television broadcast a programme showing video footage and still images the authorities claimed were extracted from the RQ-170 drone captured in 2011. The programme also showed pictures of what was described as a ScanEagle drone production line in Iran. Fars described ScanEagle as a small, long-endurance unmanned aircraft.

"As standard payload ScanEagle carries either an inertially stabilised electro-optical or an infrared camera," Fars said. "The gimbaled camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets, providing real-time intelligence."

Russia has infuriated the Iranian military in recent years for its failure to deliver Tehran with S-300 air defence systems it had agreed in a 2007 contract to supply but abandoned in 2010 owing to international sanctions against the Islamic republic. In response, Iran filed a lawsuit against Russia with the International Chamber of Commerce's court of arbitration but said in June that will drop the case if Russia changed its decision.

This month, Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, said talks were underway between Tehran and Moscow with regards to the S-300 systems. In September, a spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denied the Kremlin had ordered the delivery of the air defence systems.

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