Wednesday, December 7, 2011

US sources: Downed CIA drone made previous trips over Iran

The RQ-170 stealth drone that crashed in Iran last week has been used by the CIA in the past to spy on Iran's nuclear facilities and Hezbollah training camps inside Iran, U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday.

Its stealth technology has allowed the drone to operate in Iranian air space, feeding streaming video to the CIA of targets and activities on the ground, undetected by Iranian air defense radars -- just as it did when it circled over Osama Bin Laden's compound, undetected by the Pakistani military.

The sources, however, did not know what specific mission was involved in this case when CIA operators on the ground lost control of the drone and it eventually ran out of fuel and crashed in Iran's mountainous terrain last Thursday.

The wreckage is now in the hands of Iran’s military, and the U.S. is concerned that the Iranians could salvage highly sensitive technology used in the drone for cameras or sensors or even the stealth technology, and try to develop it for themselves. more