Debate over whether Iran is showing a real drone
December 8th, 2011
06:08 PM ET

Debate over whether Iran is showing a real drone

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, 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.

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Emperor Palapatine

    Execute order 66
    The Iranians are mad

    January 4, 2012 at 12:26 am | Reply
  2. Dave

    IF you look at the video the whole under belly of this thing is hidden INCLUDING THE LANDING GEAR !!! it could be a mock up.. one can see certain undulations on the body work . this does not look a like it was exceptionally well made

    December 18, 2011 at 7:01 am | Reply
  3. Jannai

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2. America invaded Iraq in 2003 and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and displaced 5,000,000+ Iraqi.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government and installed dictator.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. America's public debt will be 23 trillion by 2015.

    December 14, 2011 at 2:38 am | Reply
    • Greedy Banker

      Gee . . . can I sit on my lap?

      December 14, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Reply
    • Erik Lipscomb

      Iran probably doesnt have or havent found the drone yet..This is clearly a fake in the pictures..Its either badly damaged or lost in the desert somewhere...and even if they do have the time we finish pounding on their ass...they will want nothing else to do with America or its Allies...GOD Bless America and no where else!!!!!!!

      December 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Reply
    • Bruce


      Jannai, for you to post something like this, it is obvious you hate the USA. America has fought in many countries like you mentioned but did so so for various reasons, WW!, WW2 and many others they fought to help and save the people of the world from dictators who slaughtered their own people. War is an ugly event and many innocent people die but hopefully the end result is for the better. I love my country but do not always agree with the decisions our leaders make. I have traveled to many countries and several continents. I have met wonderful people from those countries even though I did not agree with their leaders or political agenda. To think of Iran or many other third world countries having the military capability we do is frightening. They beleve whoever has the biggest gun wins period and the world would be a must uglier place to live.

      January 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    • Emperor Palapatine

      Quit staring at the sun with your binoculars.Did Irans pres tell you all your misinformation you Jackwagon?

      January 4, 2012 at 12:17 am | Reply
  4. just saying

    How about doing some scale analysis. It's supposed to have an 85 foot wingspan. The two Iranians can't be more the 6 foot tall. The images shown clearly doesn't suggest that it's an 85 wingspan.

    December 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Reply
  5. Terrence

    December 12, 2011 at 2:23 am | Reply
  6. exexpatriot

    As to the "second senior US military sources" questioning it remaining intact "given the high altitude it apparently crashed from" assumes it just fell straight down in his mind. Most aircraft and model aircraft are rigged to return to a neutral flight attitude if there is no outside imput. In other words it would have most likley gone into a stable glide after loss of power and signal.So it could have just landed itself gently, run into a little obstruction or torn itself to bits and they gleaned just enough information to make a facsimile out of fiberglass during the several days before they decided to show "it". Trust NOTHING they say.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  7. exexpatriot

    Looks fake to me. Why not show its landing gear? I don't beleive the CIA uses paint matched duct tape to attach wings on our U.S. version. And what's with the parade float banners? They probably have it propped up underneath with Col. Hosseins' Farsi Fried Pigeon boxes. Iranians most likely found it after it malfunctioned , ran out of fuel and landed probably roughly God knows where. Lucky find...that's all. All the "we brought it down by cyber attack" retoric is just typical prideful Persian bullsh1t. I've lived in Iran for a couple years in the past and they see themselves as if they still rule the world but that ended a little over 300 years before Christs' birth.

    December 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Reply
    • Louis

      exexpatriot... what you may have failed to see is where the Sentinel was flying and where it might have gone down. This area is largely nothing but mountains. Even if it were to glide down, the chances of it slamming into a mountain, I'd say, are pretty high. I don't believe this is the actual Sentinel. The other thing I can't understand is, if this drone was packed with so much of our most sophisticated equipment, why was it not set to self destruct if they lost contact with it? Then, I also thought, this could have been done by the government on purpose, to throw off Iran and the Russians, to make them think they got something. But, as regular pawns in this world, we'll never know.

      December 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Reply
      • Louis

        Self destruct.... I've been really stuck on this topic ever since the bird supposedly went down. Why? Because, as a regular pion, I feel like the idea of it being of the utmost in sophistication, the government would want to protect it. Do you think they built and designed this craft without thinking what they would do if it fell into the wrong hands from a malfunction? The top thinkers had to explore every possibility of what would happen. For my limited intelligence, it just doesn't seem logical that they would not build some kind of fail safe to protect the equipment inside. Even if it were nothing more than some kind of acid released by remote control that ate the computer boards... Think about it.

        December 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
      • Lilly

        Intelligents may called those are self destroy sensor devices, might not react fast enough while had been haking. I think

        January 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  8. irani

    اینکه گفته -سپاه گفته- امریکا رو زیر پا می ذاریم باید گفت غلطی نمی تونید بخورید

    December 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • Louis

      Damn dude, I agree with you 100%. You are so right. When you guys try to drum up a good lie, you do it all the way by getting the media involved and your best paper mache makers to put something together fast!... Keep up the good work ?Ah-med

      December 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Reply
    • Louis

      Translation... I just did a copy and paste in a free translator... Here is the translation, which I still don't understand what he's saying... Translation: According to that-The army said – The US under foot hemisphere's can be said false Mansour’s photo not to eat

      December 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • Emperor Palapatine

      Wow engrish for you infidel.

      January 4, 2012 at 12:21 am | Reply
  9. Maybe

    Why not a video showing all of it? Seems a pic is a bit out of fashion in the middle east these days.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Reply
  10. Kyser

    Looks fake, I mean even in a belly controlled landing there would be some sort of visible damage.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  11. Just me

    the first question: Does this look like one of our drones? If so, where did they get the model if not the real thing?

    December 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  12. 20th Stryker Soldier

    What are we waiting for? We know they have nuclear weapons, so lets get in there with boots on the ground and clean out their ass !

    December 9, 2011 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • Joe Moe

      Do you always have fantacies of $ht and @55?

      December 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • youfirsttoughguy

      Yes, you go first. I love to see the Iranians rape you one by one. Than you can cry and scream for your mummy who gave birth to a imbecile.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Reply
      • yougotowned

        Hahah I bet you feel like a pu55y now

        December 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
      • Louis

        hmmmmm, are you saying the Iranians are gay? Seems I read a lot about that. They have to do guys because of something about their religion and not doing women unless they are married. But, no laws in Sharia that say they can't do a guy... Oh, you don't have to worry with boots on the ground. That will never happen. This would def be a war by air and sea. We'd blow them up from the sky till they waved a white flag. Why do you think they are trying to build everything underground? And why we continue to build smart bunker bombs that knock on their door when they are ready to come in...... oh yeah, I have a right to a military opinion, I was part of the machine for 10 years!

        December 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • 4th Infantry Division Soldier

      I love how people see Soldier's post their motivation to go in and kick a country's ass and then they wanna put out some crude comment because they dont like what we do for a living or think that we can't. Be lucky you have an Army. Its guys like us that keep guys like you safe with your virginity intact.

      By the Iranian is raping an American Soldier without having some big guns and the ability to aim them (naturally middle easterners suck at shooting)...even then I doubt it. We are the best trained military force in the world. You've got it twisted up if you think otherwise. Enlist and get you some, or shut the $#@! up.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Reply
      • THE KID

        Thank You, Thank You, THANK YOU.......4th Infantry Division Soldier, for that Comment an Most Of All Your Service, Dedication n' Honor In Helping Keep Us an All Americans Safe n' Warm an Most of All FREEDOM......

        December 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Emperor Palapatine

      No just let Israel stomp their rotting carcases and watch Israels back.

      January 4, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
  13. Maybe

    Maybe the Iranians can use a horse to pull it and fly it like a kite!

    December 9, 2011 at 11:41 am | Reply
  14. michaelfury

    December 9, 2011 at 7:28 am | Reply
  15. Brad

    I would like to think that "we" meant for the Iranians to find the drone and that we are currently using the downed aircraft to spy on them, but I truly do not have that much faith in the brain power of the "our" government and military leaders.

    December 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Reply
    • Joe Moe

      What would you spy on? The warehouse its in? Stop playing armchair general and go back to your video games.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply

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