This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
By Arie Egozi
The Iranian UAS shot down in Israeli territory seems to be part of the reverse engineering efforts made by this country regarding various military systems.
On 4 December 2011, an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial system (UAS) was captured by Iranian forces near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran. The Iranian government announced that the UAS was brought down by its cyber warfare unit which commandeered the aircraft and safely landed it, after initial reports from Western news sources claimed that it had been “shot down.”
The United States government initially denied the claims but later President Obama acknowledged that the downed aircraft was a US drone and requested that Iran return it
The government of Iran announced that the aircraft was brought down by its cyber warfare unit stationed near Kashmar and “brought down with minimum damage”
They said the aircraft was detected in Iranian airspace 225 kilometers (140 mi) from the border with Afghanistan.
The Iranians have put a lot of efforts in the reverse engineering of weapon systems, since the sanctions blocked all sales of advanced systems to the Iranian defense forces.
Copying the general shape of the RQ-170 is not so complicated, but giving it stealth capabilities is much more sophisticated.
This involves the application of radar absorbent materials, the ability to precisely construct large and complex composite structures, acquiring an efficient jet powerplant suited for the medium-altitude, medium-endurance (MAME) mission profile, as well as implementing the many subsystems needed for it to accomplish its mission.
The Iranian UAS shot down in Israeli territory on February 10th seems to be a very basic copy of the American type.
But with that, the Iranians may have more sophisticated versions. It is clear that the Iranians have developed an impressive capability to reverse engineer different systems, and it would be a mistake to dismiss this capability as a minor threat.