China and Russia are apparently chomping at the bit to get a look at the American spy drone that went down over Iran. But if Iranian officials are to be believed, all they have to do is fire up YouTube to get a glimpse.
On Thursday, an Iranian news site quoted military sources as saying that Russia and China have already asked Iran to view the remains of an American RQ-170 stealth spy drone that recently crashed in Iran. The site – Nasimonline.ir, known to be close to Tehran’s conservative Islamic Coalition Party — is also broadcasting footage of Iranian military officials inspecting what authorities claim is an intact RQ-170.
The video shows the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Forces Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh Hajizadeh touring the aircraft, which is decked out in the anti-American costume de rigueur of a U.S. flag with skulls on it. Hajizadeh says that Iran was able to down the drone because “collected intelligence and precise electronic monitoring revealed that this aircraft intended to infiltrate our country’s airspace for spying missions.” Exactly, how Iran went about downing the plane, he’s a little vague on, saying only that it “fell into the trap of our armed forces and was downed in Iran with minimum damage.”
Caveats apply. When it comes to news out of Iran — particularly relating to military feats — the history of official blarney and balderdash makes a healthy dose of skepticism is a necessary ingredient.
The footage of the drone released Thursday by Iran seems to show an intact aircraft that seems to roughly conform to the RQ-170?s dimensions and appearance. But it’s a little fishy for an aircraft that would have fallen hundreds or thousands of feet to appear without so much as a scratch on it, as this one does.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the country showing off this footage is also the same one that once welded together oil drums in an attempt to convince the world it had gotten its hands on sophisticated Russian air defense missiles. It could very well be that the drone on display is more of an Iranian propaganda diorama than the actual “Beast of Kandahar.”
However, Russia and China’s interest in inspecting shouldn’t be too surprising. Both countries lag behind the U.S. in stealth technology, recently debuting their own fifth generation fighters, and are almost certainly happy to have a close-up look at how America sneaks its aircraft past radars. Moreover, China’s already fond of building knockoff versions of American drones, even without the benefit of wreckage sneak peeks.
Besides, history shows that, particularly when it comes to China and stealth aircraft, one man’s crash is another man’s treasure. This summer, Pakistan reportedly gave the Chinese a look at the remains of “Airwolf,” one of the stealth helicopters that crashed during the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad. China’s new J-20 fighter may have benefited from the country’s ability to scoop up parts of the stealth F-117 that was shot down over Yugoslavia in the late 1990s. Of course, if the pictures coming out of China are to be believed, Beijing already has a stealth drone. The RQ-170 would only be so much icing on the cake.