Iran tells US to 'recount' drones

US drone

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are telling the United States to "recount" the drones in its fleet as they insist that -- despite US denials -- they captured a small US unmanned spy plane over Gulf waters, Iranian media said today.

"Its capture is not an issue the Americans can easily refute," Guards spokesman Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif was quoted as saying.

"I advise the American commanders to recount their drones accurately," he said.

The Guards yesterday claimed to have recently captured a ScanEagle drone, a low-cost, short-range unmanned aircraft made by Boeing that measures 1.4 metres long and with a wingspan of three metres.

They said the craft was seized in Iranian airspace but gave no details about how it was captured intact, nor where or when.

State television showed images of what it said was the drone: a grey, unmarked vehicle suspended in a hangar.

A spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet based in the Gulf said none of its drones was missing, and a White House spokesman said there is "no evidence" the Iranian claim was true.

A year ago, Iran displayed a bigger and vastly more sophisticated US drone, a bat-winged stealth RQ-170 Sentinel, it said it had captured by hacking its guidance system.

US officials, after initially denying that Sentinel drone had been inside Iran airspace, ended up admitting it had been lost during a CIA mission, but contended it had likely suffered a malfunction that brought it down.

US President Barack Obama unsuccessfully asked Iran to return it.

The ScanEagle that Iran says it now possesses is a much cheaper, simpler drone than the RQ-170 Sentinel.

It is principally designed to feed back video images over a radio link to operators up to 100 kilometres away.

US and allied forces used ScanEagles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and several other countries operate the drone, including Australia, Canada, Poland and the United Arab Emirates, according to Boeing background information.

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