TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV on Wednesday broadcast footage of an aircraft it says is a replica of a U.S. stealth drone captured in 2011.
The images, showing a black aircraft flying over mountainous terrain and arid lands before landing at an unnamed air base, were the first alleged proof that the Iranian-made version of the unmanned plane has actually been flown.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the aerospace division of the elite Revolutionary Guard, said Iran will build at least two or three such drones before the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which falls on March 20, and will mass produce it next year.
He claimed that Iran has even improved the efficiency of the drone by modifying its design.
"The Iranian version's weight has remarkably become less, it consumes less fuel, its speed has been increased and the duration that it can fly has improved a lot because of its enhanced body. The Americans had used metal in building the body but we did not use metal at all. It helps to reduce its detectability by radars," Hajizadeh said on state TV.
Iran has said it managed to decode all of the data and reverse-engineer the RQ-170 Sentinel, seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from neighboring Afghanistan, he added.
Hajizadeh also taunted the U.S., saying: "The mini-stroke Americans suffered will be complete by watching this footage."
Iran says it has captured several American drones in recent years, including a less sophisticated Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone which entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf. Tehran says it is also copying the ScanEagle and plans to put its version into service.