The "Mini-Me drone" Iran says it reverse-engineered from an American aircraft is a crude fake, according to a new report, making it just the latest in a long line of the Islamic Republic's phony claims of weapons wizardry.
Iran's state-run Fars News Agency on Sunday trumpeted the news that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps had made a copy of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170, and had shown off the craft at an aerospace exhibition in Tehran. But defense industry sources told the U.S. Naval Institute the supposedly cloned drone is a fake, and a crude one at that.
“It seems their fiberglass work has improved a lot," the source said. "It also seems that if it were a functional copy, versus a detailed replica, it wouldn’t necessarily have the exact same landing gear, tires, etc.,” said one source familiar with the RQ-170.
“They would probably just use whatever extra F-5 parts or general aviation parts they had lying around.”
The Iranian drone was claimed to be built from the RQ-170 that had crashed inside that country on Dec. 4, 2011, during a CIA mission. Although Iran claimed to have downed the drone by hacking into its computer system, U.S. officials say it merely crashed. President Obama asked the Iranians to return the drone, but they refused.
It isn't the first time a big defense achievement by Iran has been exposed as amateurish fakery.
Iran has a history of unveiling new and powerful weaponry that is soon exposed as fake. In February 2013, the regime in Tehran announced a new stealth fighter -- the F-313. Photos showing the plane on the ground were followed by a video claiming to show the jet in flight, but the aircraft in the video was deemed by experts to be merely a small-scale model.
Ten years earlier, Tehran trotted out a warplane dubbed Shafagh, or “Twilight.” Although it was supposed to be a revolutionary, new lightweight fighter jet, it was proven last year to be a wooden mock-up when pictures surfaced on the Internet of the obviously wooden Shafagh model under construction.
Iran even reportedly built a bogus U.S. aircraft carrier so its Revolutionary Guards navy could practice attacking it with submarines in the Strait of Hormuz.
“They [Americans] know nothing," Navy Commander Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi told Fars News Agency in April. "We have been making and sinking replicas of U.S. destroyers, frigates and warships for long years, and we have sunk the replica of their vessels in 50 seconds through a series of operational measures."
But its Ghadir-class stealth mini-submarine, which is believed to be real, and built with Chinese technology, sank during the mission, with 10 sailors reportedly lost.