A radar-evading drone that crashed on Iranian soil over the weekend was on a mission for the Central Intelligence Agency, say U.S. officials, who gave no details on the mission.
The confirmation of ownership comes after previous signals from American officials indicating that the drone was being flown by the U.S. military on a mission over Afghanistan and had simply strayed into Iranian territory.
The jet-powered, bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel is believed to be one of the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal, boasting stealth technology and sophisticated computer systems that allow it to fly deep into hostile territory without being detected.
The Sentinel's detailed capabilities remain largely classified. It was first spotted at the Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan in 2009; the RQ-170 was used to provide real-time intelligence over Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, both before and during the raid by U.S. Special Forces in May.
Iran's armed forces stated Sunday that a Sentinel drone had violated the country's airspace along the eastern border and was disabled and captured. The claim has caused American forces some alarm, as they fear the loss of highly sensitive technology, both from the drones and the cameras, as also the stealth technology, to the Iranians.
This incident has occurred at a time when Iran is trying to contain foreign outrage over the storming of the British Embassy last week.