December 15th, 2011
01:53 PM ET

Crashed drone was looking at Iran nuclear sites

By Tim Lister, with reporting by Kathleen Johnston and Pam Benson

The Sentinel drone that crashed in Iran last week was on a surveillance mission of suspected nuclear sites in the country, U.S. military officials tell CNN.

Previously, U.S. and NATO officials had said the drone was on a mission to patrol the Afghan-Iran border and had veered off course.

The officials say the Afghan government was unaware of the use of its territory to fly surveillance drones over Iran, and that the CIA had not informed the Defense Department of the drone's mission when reports first emerged that it had crashed.  One official told CNN that the U.S. military "did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission."

In Kabul Wednesday U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to comment directly on the specifics of the drone's mission but did not deny that it had been spying on Iran and said the drone program carried out "important intelligence operations which we will continue to pursue."

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the United States' most sophisticated drones and flies at up to 50,000 feet.  It is designed to evade sophisticated air defenses.  One former intelligence official told CNN that it's "impossible to see" and discounted Iranian claims that it had been brought down by some form of electronic counter-measures.

"It simply fell into their laps," he said - after satellite communication was lost.

An Iranian engineer working on the captured drone claimed to the Christian Science Monitor that Iran was able to overtake the drone control system and land it.  The engineer described to reporter Scott Peterson how Iran was able to exploit a vulnerability in the drone system.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said categorically that Iran had nothing to do with the fate of the aircraft.

"I will say without hesitation that this was not something that anyone had anything to do with, coming down with, other than a technical problem," he said. "I will tell you there was a technical problem that was our problem, nobody else's problem. I think there is a lot of PR going on."

But Panetta did not categorically rule out the possibility when asked whether the drone could have been taken down by a cyberattack or jamming.

"You can make all kinds of guesses at this point. Obviously there's nothing that you can rule out and nothing that you can rule in right now," Panetta told Fox News earlier this week.

The former official doubted the intelligence value of the drone to the Iranians.  For example, the sensors on the underbelly of the drone would have been badly damaged, he said. And coolant could have damaged the main computer.  The sensors are designed to detect airborne chemical traces that might come from a nuclear facility or intercept cell-phone conversations.

But Bill Sweetman, the editor in chief of Defense Technology International, believed everything inside the plane would be in one piece based on what he could see from the video released by the Iranians.  Sweetman added this aircraft did not represent the crown jewels of U.S. technology. "This is not the most advanced stealth technology out there."

Iranian officials have said the drone came down over eastern Iran, hundreds of miles from the cluster of nuclear sites in central and north-western Iran. Some said it came down close to the city of Kashmar in Khorasan province; others that it was recovered in the Tabas desert to the south-west.

The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, told CNN, "It was brought down somewhere in about some 150 miles or 250 kilometers deep into the Iranian territory in the province of Khorasan in the northern city of Tabas."

The Tabas desert is a remote region used by the U.S. military in 1980 as a staging area during the abortive attempt to rescue the hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

According to experts who follow Iran's nuclear program, this part of the country is not known for nuclear facilities.  More than a decade ago there were reports that Iran had developed an enrichment facility with North Korean help in the Tabas Desert.  But its existence was never confirmed, and an official at the International Atomic Energy Agency said its delegations had not been to the area.

David Albright, the president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), expressed doubts that North Korea would have shared centrifuge technology with Iran at a time it was developing its own enrichment facilities.

The area is known for its uranium mines. which Iran is under no obligation to subject to international inspection.  The main mine is at Saghand in Yazd province, to the south-west of the Tabas desert.  According to ISIS, it supplies uranium ore concentrate to a facility at Ardakan.  Other mines in Iran's eastern provinces are being developed, according to the IAEA.

Equally the drone may have been traveling across eastern Iran toward other known or suspected nuclear sites, experts say. In its most recent report, the IAEA identified many of these in and around Tehran as well as around Qom and Isfahan.

It is still unclear where the drone was based in Afghanistan. Previously reported sightings of the RQ-170 Sentinel were at the Kandahar base in southern Afghanistan.  But Afghan officials say this mission began at the former Soviet air base at Shindand in western Herat province.  A straight line from there to known nuclear facilities identified by the IAEA in north and central Iran would have taken the drone close to Kashmar.

The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has refused to confirm the Sentinel left Shindand.

CNN's Kathleen Johnston and Pam Benson contributed to this report.

Post by:
Filed under: Afghanistan • Central Intelligence Agency • drones • Intelligence • Iran • Kabul • Nuclear
soundoff (1,508 Responses)
  1. Gtnbclups

    viagra and high blood pressure – over the counter female viagra cheap viagra free shipping

    May 13, 2021 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  2. Lebnreext

    canadian pharmacies without prescriptions Floxin

    May 13, 2021 at 7:11 am | Reply
  3. Fmrfreext

    cialis viagra levitra canada buy cialis with dapoxetine

    May 13, 2021 at 2:42 am | Reply
  4. Rebffiple

    brand cialis with prescription use cialis promise coupon orlando fl

    May 12, 2021 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  5. private car services

    It's actually very difficult in this busy life to listen news
    on TV, so I just use the web for that purpose, and
    get the newest information.

    Here is my web-site ... private car services

    May 12, 2021 at 8:53 am | Reply
  6. BbshVelm

    over the counter viagra walmart how expensive is viagra

    May 12, 2021 at 6:58 am | Reply
  7. Anooreext

    cialis or viagra with alcohol farmacia viagra senza ricetta

    May 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  8. Anooreext

    como usar viagra por primera vez fish oil and viagra

    May 11, 2021 at 4:21 am | Reply
  9. Jebgreext

    canada drugs online pharmacy Azulfidine

    May 10, 2021 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  10. Jebgreext

    canada pharmaceuticals indian pharmacy online Aristocort

    May 9, 2021 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  11. Gtnbclups

    where can i buy viagra over the counter how long does viagra last?

    May 9, 2021 at 4:28 am | Reply
  12. aralen buy

    heart rate watch walmart chloroquine tablet

    May 9, 2021 at 1:08 am | Reply
  13. Lbsofiple

    europe cialis cialis 20 mg from united kingdom

    May 8, 2021 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  14. chloroquine australia

    chloraquine chlorodine

    May 7, 2021 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  15. Lbsofiple

    price generic cialis buy generic cialis

    May 7, 2021 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  16. Lebnreext

    canadian online pharmacy reviews Caverta

    May 7, 2021 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  17. Fmrfreext

    cialis,com cialis (generic)

    May 7, 2021 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  18. priligy

    dapoxetine india dapoxetine pharmacy

    May 7, 2021 at 11:06 am | Reply
  19. BbshVelm

    viagra 100 viagra online prescription

    May 7, 2021 at 7:16 am | Reply
  20. priligy

    dapoxetine 1mg dapoxetine tablet price in india

    May 6, 2021 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  21. Rebffiple

    buy cialis no prescription overnight – cialis australia express shipping tadalafil cialis bestprice

    May 6, 2021 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  22. Fmrfreext

    over the counter viagra cialis – how much does cialis cost at walmart viagra cialis trail pack

    May 5, 2021 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  23. Gtnbclups

    viagra cost per pill viagra or cialis

    May 5, 2021 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  24. Rebffiple

    buy brand cialis online – buy cialis cheap online cialis no prescription overnight delivery

    May 5, 2021 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  25. Lebnreext

    Malegra DXT Viagra with Dapoxetine

    May 5, 2021 at 12:04 am | Reply
  26. BbshVelm

    how to get viagra – viagra commercial girl otc viagra walmart

    May 4, 2021 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  27. Anooreext

    tesco viagra questionnaire viagra kupa

    May 4, 2021 at 11:29 am | Reply
  28. Anooreext

    qual o melhor viagra caseiro precio viagra farmacias chilenas

    May 4, 2021 at 2:07 am | Reply
  29. Jebgreext

    buy online pharmacy uk Viagra with Dapoxetine

    May 4, 2021 at 1:35 am | Reply
  30. Fbsfreext

    Fildena Aricept

    May 2, 2021 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  31. Rfvbfiple

    cialis denmark viagra and cialis discount

    May 2, 2021 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  32. best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills

    canadian generic pills canadian weight loss pills

    May 2, 2021 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  33. Lrbsreext

    levitra when to take how long does levitra work

    May 1, 2021 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  34. Abdgreext

    Ventolin inhalator Sildalist

    May 1, 2021 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  35. Rfvbfiple

    cialis bayer 20 – cialis on line paypal payment cialis supplier uk

    May 1, 2021 at 9:38 am | Reply
  36. is it legal to bring viagra back to canada from mexico

    best viagra pills 25 mg canada pharmarcy viagra in canada

    May 1, 2021 at 6:23 am | Reply
  37. Abdgreext

    Naprosyn – Zyloprim canadian rx

    May 1, 2021 at 2:59 am | Reply
  38. Jbsdreext

    canadianpharmacy cialis professional walgreens pharmacy online

    April 30, 2021 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  39. avana

    avanafil avanafil dosing

    April 30, 2021 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  40. Gvdbclups

    cialis from india mt tadalafil pharmaglobalrx tadalafil

    April 30, 2021 at 6:06 am | Reply
  41. viagra/canada

    canada viagra new viagra in canada

    April 30, 2021 at 12:13 am | Reply
  42. cialis, sale, canadian pharm.

    canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis cialis canadian discounts

    April 29, 2021 at 10:03 am | Reply
  43. Jeanne

    I'm impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that's both equally
    educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.

    I am very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something concerning this.

    April 29, 2021 at 7:16 am | Reply
  44. Jbsdreext

    pharmacy canada Avapro canadian prescription drugstore

    April 29, 2021 at 3:28 am | Reply
  45. canadian customs pills vitamins

    canadian pills online average perscription pills taken by 65 year old canadian?

    April 28, 2021 at 5:26 am | Reply
  46. sildenafil us pharmacy

    buy sildenafil canada sildenafil prescription cost

    April 28, 2021 at 3:42 am | Reply
  47. BbdfVelm

    viagra connect walgreens does the government fund viagra

    April 27, 2021 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  48. Lhdvfiple

    low cost cialis cialis no prescriptuin

    April 27, 2021 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  49. plaquenil toxicity

    erectile tissue in men review erectile dysfunction pump

    April 27, 2021 at 1:50 am | Reply
  50. Lhdvfiple

    discount generic cialis cialis online purchase canada

    April 26, 2021 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  51. Lrbsreext

    generic name for levitra levitra 20mg forum pastillas levitra

    April 26, 2021 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  52. Fbsfreext

    Amaryl – legitimate canadian mail order pharmacies Tetracycline

    April 26, 2021 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  53. alprostadil intraurethral (muse) therapy

    injectable for ed how to get alprostadil injection

    April 26, 2021 at 6:49 am | Reply
  54. sildenafil otc nz

    sildenafil medicine in india sildenafil 100mg for sale uk

    April 26, 2021 at 6:31 am | Reply
  55. Gvdbclups

    tadalafil cialis from india buying tadalafil online

    April 26, 2021 at 1:29 am | Reply
  56. erectile dysfunction medications

    tens 7000 erectile dysfunction does erectile disfunction affect mastarbation

    April 25, 2021 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  57. Rfvbfiple

    cialis uk – cialis viagra mail order uk discrete billing buy brand cialis online

    April 25, 2021 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  58. Fbsfreext

    pharmacy near me top rated online canadian pharmacies

    April 24, 2021 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  59. Rfvbfiple

    buy cialis online cheap cialis

    April 24, 2021 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  60. how to adminiter transurethral alprostadil

    alprostadil gel how do i use alprostadil urethral suppository

    April 24, 2021 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  61. BbdfVelm

    where can i buy viagra – viagra discounts viagra overnight

    April 24, 2021 at 10:14 am | Reply
  62. Lrbsreext

    levitra reviews levitra where to buy

    April 24, 2021 at 7:42 am | Reply
  63. generic tadalafil

    what is tadalafil generic tadalafil 40 mg

    April 23, 2021 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  64. vardenafil prices

    vardenafil how to take vardenafil vs viagra

    April 23, 2021 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  65. Abdgreext

    Olanzapine pharmacy

    April 23, 2021 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  66. Jbsdreext

    Viagra with Dapoxetine international drug mart canadian pharmacy online store

    April 23, 2021 at 7:28 am | Reply
  67. Abdgreext

    canada pharmacies/account canadian pharmacies that are legit

    April 23, 2021 at 6:37 am | Reply
  68. buy vardenafil over the counter with no pres. online

    vardenafil sublingual generic vardenafil cost

    April 22, 2021 at 9:09 pm | Reply

    Science Water On Earth Old English Literature A Short Introduction

    Also visit my homepage – pdf book []

    April 21, 2021 at 4:14 am | Reply

    Tess Gerritsen Incendio Definition Of Archetypal Literary Criticism

    Check out my webpage; pdf book (

    April 20, 2021 at 8:36 pm | Reply
  71. buy viagra from canada?

    viagra canada over the counter is it safe to get viagra from canada

    April 17, 2021 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  72. canadian pharmacy tadalafil viagara cialis

    cialis canadian pharmacy cialis on line purches canadian pharmacy

    April 17, 2021 at 1:57 am | Reply
  73. canadian pills online

    canadian diet pills canadian diet pills

    April 15, 2021 at 11:31 am | Reply
  74. generic tadalafil

    what is tadalafil tadalafil max dose

    April 15, 2021 at 6:52 am | Reply
  75. zithromax online no prescription

    zithromax dosis zithromax 250mg tablet

    April 12, 2021 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  76. erectile dysfunction medications

    topical erectile dysfunction erectile dysfunction prognosis

    April 12, 2021 at 7:48 am | Reply
  77. Fbshreext – research thesis thesis express

    April 8, 2021 at 9:02 pm | Reply
  78. where can i buy over the counter sildenafil

    can i buy sildenafil citrate sildenafil 20 mg lowest price

    April 7, 2021 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  79. Abgcreext – thesis writing practice how do i write a thesis

    April 7, 2021 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  80. vardenafil 20mg tablets

    buy vardenafil over the counter with no pres. online vardenafil vs tadalafil

    April 7, 2021 at 3:08 am | Reply
  81. where to buy alprostadil cream

    alprostadil nasal spray alprostadil cost per dose

    April 7, 2021 at 2:55 am | Reply
  82. injectable ed drugs

    how much alprostadil vials illegal sales of alprostadil

    April 5, 2021 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  83. tadalafil 30 mg

    what is tadalafil tadalafil 40

    April 5, 2021 at 11:52 am | Reply
  84. 40 mg tadalafil

    tadalafil 40 mg daily tadalafil 30 mg

    April 5, 2021 at 10:21 am | Reply
  85. vardenafil vs tadalafil which is better?

    vardenafil how to take vardenafil levitra

    April 4, 2021 at 12:34 am | Reply
  86. sildenafil 680

    sildenafil for women purchase sildenafil 20 mg

    April 3, 2021 at 7:26 pm | Reply

    Bill Nye Science Guy Refraction Baldacci New Book

    my web site ... book epub (

    April 2, 2021 at 9:25 am | Reply
  88. books

    Literature Ka Hindi Meaning Liane Moriarty Books In Order Written

    April 1, 2021 at 10:25 am | Reply
  89. Fbshreext – writing thesis proposal online thesis thesis review thesis writing assistance

    April 1, 2021 at 3:52 am | Reply

    Feminist Literary Criticism Quotes Science Guy Nick Uhas

    My blog post :: pdf books (

    March 31, 2021 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  91. get pdf

    Of Mice And Men Weed Emotional Intelligence Book Pages

    Here is my blog post: get pdf

    March 31, 2021 at 8:44 am | Reply
  92. Abgcreext – thesis editing thesis template doctoral thesis writing writing with a thesis

    March 31, 2021 at 1:23 am | Reply

    Crucial Conversations Guide Distance Learning Mba Universities In India

    Here is my web blog: pdf (

    March 30, 2021 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  94. BrfgVelm – how to take cialis – cialis 5mg price cvs – lisinopril viagra – mandy flores viagra – what to do when cialis stops working

    March 30, 2021 at 10:20 am | Reply
  95. Grvclups – teva generic viagra cost – generic viagra in usa – free trial cialis – what happens if a woman takes cialis – is tadalafil and cialis the same thing?

    March 29, 2021 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  96. Fbshreext – help with thesis statement thesis proposal writing service thesis proposal help help with thesis writing

    March 26, 2021 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  97. Jvqqreext – dissertation support dissertation writing grants dissertation proposal help dissertation writing service uk

    March 26, 2021 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  98. Abgcreext – thesis only phd i need help writing a thesis thesis writing service reviews phd thesis writing services

    March 25, 2021 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  99. Fbshreext – help with thesis statement dissertation thesis writing thesis only phd writing your thesis

    March 24, 2021 at 4:03 am | Reply
  100. Lmoppreext – how to write my college essay persuasive essay writer write my essay for me no plagiarism order essay online cheap

    March 23, 2021 at 5:15 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Leave a Reply to SixDegrees


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.