The Iranian military today released video of what it claimed was the successful maiden voyage of an advanced stealth drone the Islamic nation copied from an American unmanned aircraft that crashed in Iran three years ago -- but U.S. officials are unimpressed.
The footage, broadcast on Iranian state television, shows an aircraft with a similar shape to the U.S. Air Force’s RQ-170 taking off and flying at relatively low altitude before an edited portion of the video purports to show it landing back on the runway.
Two days ago a top Iranian military commander told local reporters the drone had made a successful flight and that footage would be released shortly.
“We had promised to fly the final model of [the] RQ-170 in the second half of the current [Iranian] year and this happened,” Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Monday, according to the Iranian news outlet Fars.
The Associated Press reported Hajizadeh taunted the U.S. further today, saying, “The mini-stroke Americans suffered will be complete by watching this footage.”
Hajizadeh claimed that while the U.S. only uses the drone for surveillance missions, Iran will use it for bombing runs as well.
Pentagon spokesperson Col. Steve Warren told reporters today there is "no way it matches American technology."
Another U.S. official told ABC News the U.S. government can't confirm "Tehran's claims, [but] given the Iranians' history of propaganda, it wouldn't be surprising if the plane's purported capabilities are exaggerated, especially since they are being so open about them."
Retired Marine Col. Steve Ganyard, who consults for ABC News, also expressed doubts about the video, saying it may have shown a smaller replica of the RQ-170 that previous Iranian reports said had been built months ago.
Iran got its hands on the original American-made drone back in December 2011 when it crash landed in Iranian territory while on a mission for the CIA. At the time, Iranian officials claimed the drone was in Iranian airspace and the military had been able to bring the drone down through an electronic attack – both claims U.S. military officials denied.
Shortly after the drone went down, Iranian officials made a show of their new prize with a nearly hour-long state broadcast in which the large drone was put on display, flanked by pro-Iranian banners.
Though Iran promised to reverse engineer the aircraft for their own use and Iranian press called the incident a “major embarrassment for Washington,” then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters it was unclear what technological value the drone could still have, depending on its condition.
“I don’t know the condition of those parts – I don’t know exactly what state they’re in – so it’s a little difficult to tell what they are going to be able to derive from what they have been able to get,” he said days after the original incident.
Representatives for the CIA, the Air Force and drone-maker Lockheed Martin did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.