The latest incident recalled the loss of a CIA Stealth drone deep inside Iranian territory last December. US officials said it crashed, but Iran announced it had caught the drone in an "electronic ambush." An Iranian engineer told the Monitor how Iran brought it down largely intact by incrementally "spoofing" the bird's GPS system.
Until that point, the very existence of the CIA's bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel drone – never mind its operations over Iran – was classified.
On the eve of what Iranian media billed as a "massive nationwide [military] manuever," top Iranian officers said their forces were ready, as rhetoric about a US or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has surged in recent months.
"The air defense of the Islamic Republic of Iran fully resists against any threat and uses its utmost capacity to counter threats," Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili, the chief of the Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base Command, was reported today as saying by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
Iran's official PressTV reported that the "Defenders of Velayat Skies 4" maneuver would cover 850,000 square kilometers in eastern Iran, and would "display the full strength and preparedness of Iran's air defense forces to defend the Islamic Republic's eastern borders."
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the Iranian planes fired at least twice at the slow-moving drone and pursued it for several miles as it moved away. He said at no point did the Predator enter Iranian airspace.