WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is seen in this photo. U.S. officials concerned that Iran may acquire information about the shot down drone. AP photo
U.S. officials have acknowledged that the military lost control of one of the stealthy drones while it was flying a mission over western Afghanistan. Iran’s official IRNA news agency has said that Iran’s armed forces shot it down. Officials have rejected that claim, saying there are no indications the Sentinel was shot down. In either case, officials said this would be the first Sentinel lost by the U.S.
U.S. military officials said Dec. 5 they are concerned that Tehran may have an opportunity to acquire information about the classified surveillance drone program after one of the stealthy aircraft crashed in Iran
while patrolling in western Afghanistan. But experts suggested that even if the Iranians have found parts of the unmanned spy plane, they can probably glean little from it. Because it likely fell from a high altitude, there may be very few large pieces to examine.
The RQ-170, known as the Sentinel, has been used in Afghanistan, particularly along the border, for several years. The U.S. Air Force has just “a handful” of them, said defense analyst Loren Thompson, with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute. “I think we’re always concerned when there’s an aircraft, whether it’s manned or unmanned, that we lose, particularly in a place where we’re not able to get to it,” Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Monday.