By Chris Lawrence and Barbara Starr
There’s disagreement among Pentagon officials about whether the drone shown on Iranian television on Thursday is really the U.S. drone that crahsed. Military and intelligence officials are analyzing the Iran television footage.
One US official said right now the military can't be certain it's the real stealth drone, because they don't have access to it. But he added there's no reason to think it's a fake.
But a second senior US military official said that a big question the official has about the Iranian footage is how it could have remained virtually intact given the high altitude it is believed to have crashed from.
Earlier this week a different senior military official told CNN that based on U.S. satellite imagery, the drone appeared to have sustained significant damage.
Pentagon spokesman said the video is being examined.
"We've seen the imagery. There are folks that are looking at it," Capt. John Kirby told a news conference.
He and his fellow spokesman, George Little, would not comment further on whether the drone is the one that the U.S. military said went missing. They did say that the missing U.S. drone had not been recovered.
John Pike, a military expert at GlobalSecurity.org, said his initial impression from pictures sent to him by CNN was that it was not what you would expect to see after a crash. His guess that the object is a mock-up prepared for a parade, noting a U.S. flag in the picture.
Pike pointed out the wings in the picture droop down, whereas in most pictures the wings are higher than the center, which is good for stability
Bill Sweetman, an aviation analyst, said the craft appears to be the RQ-170 and it looks real to him.
If the drone came down in what he called a flat spin or what is known as a falling leaf departure, the plane would be pretty much intact, but the belly would be badly scraped. He said all of the electronics inside would most likely be in one piece.
Sweetman doubts the Iranians hacked into the system and took control of the aircraft. It is much more likely it crashed by itself since "that what drones do."
And the condition also suggests it was not shot down but was a system failure. There are no burn marks from a fire, no holes and no outward damage. Sweetman noticed a dent along the leading edge but doesn't know what that necessarily means.
“It's fairly clear here from the pictures that the outer wings have been separated . The question is did that happen in the accident or whether they took them off to move the aircraft,” Sweatman said.
The CIA and the Pentagon would not comment on the latest development.