US Navy says no drones missing in Middle East after Iran claims it has captured one

Published December 04, 2012

| FoxNews.com

A U.S. Navy spokesman is discrediting Iran's claim Tehran captured a U.S. drone, saying no drones are missing in the Middle East.

The spokesman tells Fox News all U.S. drones have been accounted for in the area. Iran's state TV claimed Tuesday the country had captured a drone it says entered its airspace over the Persian Gulf. 

The Fars news agency quoted navy chief Gen. Ali Fadavi as saying that the Iranian forces caught the "intruding" drone, which had apparently taken off from a U.S. aircraft carrier. Fadavi said the unmanned Scan Eagle aircraft was now in Iran's possession.

"The U.S. drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard's navy air defense unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace," Fadavi said. "Such drones usually take off from large warships."

Al-Alam, the state TV's Arabic-language channel, showed two Guard commanders examining what appeared to be an intact Scan Eagle drone. It was not immediately clear if that was the same drone Iran claimed to have captured.

In the footage, the two men then point to a huge map of the Persian Gulf in the background, showing the drone's alleged path of entry into Iranian airspace.

"We shall trample on the U.S," was printed over the map, next to the Guard's coat-of-arms.

Last month, Iran claimed that a U.S. drone had violated its airspace. Pentagon said the unmanned aircraft came under fire -- at least twice but was not hit -- and that the Predator was over international waters.

The Nov. 1 shooting in the Gulf was unprecedented, and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear program. Tehran denies it's pursuing a nuclear weapon and insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

In 2011, Iran claimed it brought down a CIA spy drone after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which is equipped with stealth technology, was captured almost intact. Tehran later said it recovered data from the top-secret drone.

In the case of the Sentinel, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

The U.S and its allies believe Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation and cancer treatment.

The ScanEagle is manufactured by Boeing Co. Reuters reports that according to the firm's website, the drone is four feet long and has a 10-foot wingspan.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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