A senior unnamed Iranian military official said on Sunday that Iran Army’s electronic warfare unit successfully targeted the American-built RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft after it crossed into Iranian airspace over the border with neighbouring Afghanistan. The source added that the US reconnaissance drone has been seized with minimum damage.
The RQ-170 is a stealth unmanned aircraft designed and developed by Lockheed Martin Company. The US military and the CIA use the drone to launch missile strikes in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s north-western tribal region.
The Iranian military official further added that “due to the clear border violation, the operational and electronic measures taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces against invading aircraft will not remain limited to the Iran’s borders.”
In July, Iranian officials also claimed a US drone was shot down while flying over the city of Qom, which authorities say was gathering intel on a nearby nuclear facility. Sunday’s reports of the downed drone come as the conflict between the US and Iran centering on the Islamic republic’s alleged nuclear weapons program continue to intensify. The US military has yet to comment on the report
The report comes as the United States has beefed up its military presence in and around the Gulf region in recent months in the wake of popular uprising in Bahrain, which is the headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and holds some 4,200 US service members.
In November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors passed a resolution urging Iran to provide access to its nuclear facilities to UN experts.
The resolution followed a November 8 IAEA report which claimed Iran had been actively developing weapons.
While Iran has continued to maintain that their nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes, the US and the European Union have chosen to tighten sanctions on key Iranian industries.
Diplomatic tensions between Iran and the West continued to intensify after dozens of Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran Tuesday in response to the unilateral imposition of sanctions.
Britain immediately shut down its embassy in Tehran and subsequently closed the Iranian embassy in London on Wednesday, expelling its entire staff.
Other European countries also responded in kind, as Norway closed its embassy in Tehran, while Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands all opted to recall their ambassadors.
As the threats of even tighter sanctions loom over the country, Iran’s foreign ministry had responded that any attempts by the West to block oil exports would be met with a doubling of crude oil prices on the global market.
“As soon as such an issue is raised seriously the oil price would soar to above $250 a barrel,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reportedly said.
Iran, which received some $56 billion in the first seven months of 2011 from crude oil exports, is the world’s third-largest crude exporter and heavily dependent on revenues generated from the trade.