The RQ-170 stealth drone that crashed in Iran last week has been used by the CIA in the past to spy on Iran's nuclear facilities and Hezbollah training camps inside Iran, U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday.
Its stealth technology has allowed the drone to operate in Iranian air space, feeding streaming video to the CIA of targets and activities on the ground, undetected by Iranian air defense radars -- just as it did when it circled over Osama Bin Laden's compound, undetected by the Pakistani military.
The sources, however, did not know what specific mission was involved in this case when CIA operators on the ground lost control of the drone and it eventually ran out of fuel and crashed in Iran's mountainous terrain last Thursday.
The wreckage is now in the hands of Iran’s military, and the U.S. is concerned 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.
Officials in Washington confirmed that the vehicle was a highly secret stealth drone called an RQ-170, which looks more like a flying wing than an airplane.
NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports on the American stealth drone that crashed in Iran and whether it is giving the Iranians access to a wealth of U.S. technology.