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Drone that crashed in Iran risks secret U.S. technology

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports on the American stealth drone that crashed in Iran and whether it provides Iranians access to sensitive U.S. technology.

An American drone that crashed in Iran last Thursday was on a mission for the CIA, and is now in the hands of Iran’s military, NBC News has learned.

U.S. officials tell NBC that CIA operators were flying the unmanned drone when it veered out of control and headed deep into Iran. The drone eventually ran out of fuel and crashed in Iran's remote mountains.

The nature of the drone’s mission was secret and sources say it's still not clear whether the drone was operating in Iran or Afghanistan.


Officials here confirm that the vehicle was a highly secret stealth drone called an RQ-170, which looks more like a flying wing than an airplane — the same kind of drone that circled over Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as Navy Seals targeted the fugitive al-Qaida leader.

One major concern is that the Iranians could salvage highly sensitive technology used in the drone for cameras or sensors or even the stealth technology, and try to develop it for themselves.

Iranian media reported on Sunday that their country's military had shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran, but a U.S. official said there was no indication the aircraft had been shot down.

Iran has announced several times in the past that it shot down U.S., Israeli or British drones, in incidents that did not provoke high-profile responses.

"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network on Sunday quoted a military source as saying.

"The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces," the source said. "The Iranian military's response to the American spy drone's violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran's borders."

Iranian officials were not available to comment further.

The incident comes at a time when Tehran is trying to contain foreign outrage at the storming of the British embassy on Tuesday, after London announced sanctions on Iran's central bank in connection with Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

Reuters contributed to this report.