Iran’s military is reconstructing the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone it shot down last year.
The drone is being reassembled from recovered parts but will never fly.
Iran could learn from the remains to build a drone of its own, and it has a history of making copies of American equipment.
Iran has reportedly recovered large sections of a U.S. Air Force RQ-4A Global Hawk drone it shot down last summer. The drone landed in the Persian Gulf where it was later salvaged. While Iran might learn some things about the drone’s design, construction, and onboard sensors it may not be able to build a good copy of the unmanned aircraft.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was shot down on June 20, 2019, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The attack sent the Global Hawk plummeting towards the waters of the Persian Gulf below, an event observed by U.S. military forces. A brand-new Global Hawk costs approximately $123 million each.
New article #Iran has rebuilt the @USNavy Global Hawk it shot down in June 2019. But I doubt that they really did a deep sea salvage. Bigger question is, was it an intelligence op from the beginning?https://t.co/SbI53LOjcy
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) July 14, 2020
Now, according to Forbes, Iran is piecing recovered remains of the drone together. Iranian state media has revealed images of the drone in a partially assembled configuration. Iran’s government claims the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGC-N) recovered the drone parts from the bottom of the Persian Gulf. The IRGC is a paramilitary organization under direct control of Iran’s mullahs and is responsible for Iranian military operations inside the Persian Gulf.
Analysts are doubtful that the drone was recovered from the sea floor, noting that the IRGC-N doesn’t maintain a deep water salvage capability. The parts on display, including parts of the fuselage and wings, likely floated after landing in the Gulf and were recovered by boat. Heavier parts, including sensors, avionics, and other items, may still be on the bottom of the ocean.
Forbes’ H.I. Sutton believes the shootdown, in addition to being used for propaganda value, may have been done to retrieve a RQ-4 for analysis. The wreck was recovered relatively quickly, suggesting Iran may have planned to do so in advance of the attack. Iran was showcasing parts of the drone as early as September 2019.
Tehran has made fanciful claims about what it discovered, including “codes and passwords” it says it can use to disable the drones from "thousands of kilometers away." While that’s extremely unlikely, it points to the fact that Iran would try to learn everything it could about the downed drone.
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