Iran Drone
Undated picture shows member of Iran's revolutionary guard pointing at U.S. RQ-170 unmanned spy plane as he speaks with Hajizadeh at unknown location in Iran Reuters

Iran has recovered data from the unmanned American drone that crashed near the Afghan border last year, and is using the information to reverse-engineer its own spy plane, the Islamic Republic announced on Sunday.

Senior Iranian officials gave few details about the captured RQ-170 Sentinel or their new copy because the plane is regarded as a national asset and… discussing (it) would be a disclosure of information, according to the Tehran Times, but Iran's military leaders have boasted that there is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft.

There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God, said Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

More than 50 years of the Americans’ technology of manned and unmanned aircraft has been used in this spy drone. All the technologies that the Americans have used in the F-35 aircraft, stealth bombers, the Polecat, etc. have been used in this plane.”

When the drone was first downed near the Iran-Afghanistan border in December, the United States denied that it had been conducting missions within Iranian airspace. Doing so would have been a violation of international law, and Washington said that the drone was lost while flying over Afghanistan.

Other U.S. officials insisted that the drone was a fake, claiming that it was the wrong color, the weld-joints on the wings were not the same as the RQ-170's and that the landing gear was covered up in video footage of the aircraft.

On Sunday, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the Armed Services Committee, revealed his skepticism toward Iran's latest claims.

There's a history here of Iranian bluster, particularly now when they're on the defensive because of our economic sanctions against them, Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday.

Still, Iran is hailing the drone recovery as a victory for Tehran and a defeat for Washington, and there is still fear within the United States that Iran could sell military secrets to other governments.

Indeed, Ahmad Karimpour, an adviser to Iran's defense minister, confirmed that a number of countries have tried to purchase information about the RQ-170 Sentinel, Russia and China being the most aggressive, according to the Fars news agency.

Additionally, the U.S. is concerned that Iran could also reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the aircraft's radar-deflecting paint or its optics technology.

The RQ-170 Sentinel has been used by the CIA in Pakistan, and the Revolutionary Guard claimed on Sunday that the drone captured last year was used in fly-overs of Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound two-weeks before the Navy SEAL raid last May. Iran also determined, based on the recovered data, that the drone was tested in Los Angeles in 2010 and that it underwent repairs in Kandahar, Afghanistan later that year.

If we had not achieved access to software and hardware of this aircraft, we would be unable to get these details, Hajizadeh said. Our experts are fully [in command of] sections and programs of this plane. It's not that we can bring down a drone but cannot recover the data.