Commander of Basij (volunteer) Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi said the Iranian Armed Forces have seized a large number of the spy drones that they have downed in recent years.
General Naqdi’s remarks came after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force shot down an Israeli spy drone before it could reach Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on Sunday.
“Our Armed Forces have a big collection of drones made by the devil forces, but they will not announce it due to security reasons,” General Naqdi told reporters on Monday.
He pointed to the downing of the Israel spy drone by the IRGC Aerospace Force yesterday, and said such military moves and aggressions “by the Zionist regime are meant to show that they (the Zionists) are still alive and on the stage, while they are finished”.
The Basij commander that the Iranian Armed Forces are much more powerful than what Israel and the US think.
“The Zionists should pack up and go because the crimes committed by them and the fiasco that they have created has made their supporters leave them deserted,” General Naqdi added.
He stated that those who are still supporting the Zionist regime are a bunch arrogant powers who are seen as Zionists themselves.
The IRGC Aerospace Force shot down an Israeli spy drone before it could reach Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on Sunday.
The IRGC Public Relations Department said in a statement that the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a radar-evading, stealth drone with the mission to spy on Iran’s enrichment activities by flying over Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.
The IRGC also pointed out in its statement that the Israeli hostile aircraft has been targeted by a surface-to-air missile.
“This mischievous attempt once again made the adventurous nature of the Zionist regime more evident and added another black page to the dark record of this fake and warmongering regime, which is full of crimes and wickedness,” the statement added.
The IRGC further warned that it “reserves the right of response and retaliation for itself”.
Senior IRGC officials announced later last night that IRGC experts are decoding the intelligence devices of the Israeli spy drone that they shot down in Central Iran earlier yesterday.
Director of the IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif told FNA on Sunday night that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts”.
“We are now analyzing the information of this plane,” he added.
Gen. Sharif further mentioned that Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh will soon reveal more details on the spy drone and the way it has been hunted down by his forces.
Then on Monday, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced that the hunted Israeli pilotless aircraft was a Hermes-type drone.
“The downed spy drone is Hermes and made in Israel,” General Hajizadeh said.
He said the operational range of Hermes drones is 800 kilometers, adding that the aircraft can fly 1,600 kilometers by refueling once.
The General said parts of the aircraft have burnt out after it was targeted by the ground-to-air missiles of the IRGC Aerospace Force and after its fuel tank blast, yet “some parts of this drone are intact and we are now analyzing the information and intel of these parts”.
Elaborating on the details of the down Israeli aircraft, the commander further stated that the drone, which is 5.5 meters wide in wings, is equipped with two cameras which can take high-quality photos.
“There was no prior information available about the aircraft and the only one of this type had been downed in Syria, but this one is more advanced,” General Hajizadeh said.
The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload UAV, designed for tactical long endurance missions.
It has a flight endurance of over 20 hours, with a primary mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay.
Iran has so far downed several US drones in the last few years. In the most notable case the country announced on December 4, 2011 that its defense forces had downed a US RQ-170 aircraft through a sophisticated cyber attack. The drone was the first such loss by the US. US officials have described the loss of the aircraft in Iran as a setback and a fatal blow to the stealth drone program.
The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
Since December, 2011, Iran has hunted down several more US drones of various types.
In January 2013, a deputy commander of the Iranian Navy announced that the country’s Army had hunted two more advanced RQ type UAVs.
“The air-defense units of the Army have hunted two enemy drones,” Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Coordination Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari told FNA.
“These drones were from 11th series of the RQ class, and one of them was hunted in Shahrivar 1390 (August 21-September 19, 2011) and the other one in Aban (October 22-November 20, 2012),” Rastegari said, adding that the Army research center is now studying the two UAVs.
“Much of the data of these drones has been decoded by the Army’s Jihad and Research Center,” he said, but did not provide any further detail.
The remarks by the Iranian commander came after Iran announced on December 4, 2012 that the IRGC Navy had hunted a US UAV over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.
The IRGC navy commander announced at the time that the hunted UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that “such drones are usually launched from large warships”.
ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
Iran later reproduced its own model of ScanEagle through reverse engineering techniques.
Iran has downed many other US drones as well, and they have always started reproducing them after conducting reverse engineering on them.
The unmanned surveillance plane lost by the United States in Iran was a stealth aircraft being used for secret missions by the CIA, US officials admitted in December. The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
In December, Lieutenant Commander of the IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami announced that the Iranian version of the US drone, RQ-170, would be unveiled to the public soon.
“The construction of this drone will finish soon and most of the job has been done now,” General Salami told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran in December, 2013.
In relevant remarks in October, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that Iran moved as much as 35 years ahead in building drone engines by reverse engineering the US drone, RQ-170 which was tracked and hunted down in Iran late in 2011.
The RQ-170 engines are the fifth generation and the engines of Iranian unmanned planes are the third generation, Hajizadeh said, adding that to produce the engine we had to spend 35 years on the project.
He said that the home-made version of the US drone RQ-170 captured by the IRGC would make its maiden flight in the near future.
In April, 2013, a senior Iranian parliamentary official announced that Iran has reverse engineered the RQ-170, adding that the Iranian version of the drone would soon have a test flight.
“The brave personnel of the Armed Forces hunted down the drone with their knowledge and science and the Americans protested immediately and called for the return of the UAV,” Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in the Northern city of Rasht last April.
Iran has downed several US drones so far and Boroujerdi did not mention which one he meant, but explained, “The reverse engineering started immediately (by the Iranian experts after hunting down the US UAV) and the Iranian type of the US drone will fly in Iran’s Aerospace Organization soon which shows the Islamic Republic’s might and power.”