Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to "trick" the recently downed U.S. surveillance drone to land on Iran soil intact, Iranian engineers said in an exclusive interview with the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday.
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama indicated that the United States had officially requested that Iran return the secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone, after Iranian TV displayed the craft in what they considered to be a great victory.
Speaking with the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday, Iranian military officials said that they were able to cut off communication between the U.S. drone and its operators, and reconfigured the drone's GPS to make it land where it thought was its home base in Afghanistan.
"The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the Iranian military official told the Monitor, calling the downing an "electronic ambush" of secret drone.
"By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain," he added.
The engineer added that the Iranians were able to make the drone land "on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications” from the US control center."
Last week, Iranian state television displayed what it said was a downed U.S. surveillance drone, days after U.S. officials expressed concern that Tehran would be able to glean information about a classified military program.
According to the semi-official Fars news agency, in the televised segment, commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Forces Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that Iranian forces uncovered the aircraft as it was about "to infiltrate our country's airspace for spying missions."
"[A]fter it entered the Eastern parts of the country, this aircraft fell into the trap of our armed forces and was downed in Iran with minimum damage," Hajizadeh told Fars.
According to the Iranian military official, the drone was "equipped with highly advanced surveillance, data gathering, electronic communication and radar systems," saying that "this kind of plane has been designed to evade radar systems and from the view point of technology it is amongst the most recent types of advanced aircraft used by the U.S."
"The technology used in this aircraft had already been used in B2 and F35 planes," Hajizadeh added, saying the "aircraft is controlled and guided through satellite link and land stations in Afghanistan and the United States."
"Military experts are well aware how precious the technological information of this drone is," Fars quoted Hajizadeh as saying.
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