Mystery: Did Iranian Pilots Encounter a Mach 10 Drone or Some Sort of UFO?

David Axe

Key point: America probably doesn't have a super powerful, super fast drone (although you never know). If the Pentagon doesn't have a secret weapon up its sleeve, then who knows those Iranians saw.

Iran is the only other country besides the United States to operate arguably history’s most powerful interceptor aircraft, the F-14 Tomcat. And the Islamic republic has worked the twin-engine, swing-wing fighters hard.

The F-14s played a major role in Iran’s war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988. Iranian Tomcat pilots were the only ones to successfully employ the F-14’s long-range, heavyweight AIM-54 Phoenix missile to shoot down enemy planes.

In the decades after the war, Tehran repaired and upgraded the surviving F-14s, scouring the globe for parts in defiance of a U.S. government embargo.

The Americans retired their F-14s in 2006, but around 40 of Iran’s Tomcats remain active. Their main role is defending Iran’s nuclear sites. It’s a mission that has brought the interceptors in close contact with some very mysterious aircraft, according to a bizarre and fascinating 2013 story in Combat Aircraft magazine by reporter Babak Taghvaee.

The Iranians believed the objects were spy drones belonging to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, sent to sniff out Tehran’s suspected atomic weapons program. But they attribute to these alleged unmanned aerial vehicles flight characteristics and capabilities far beyond what any known drone can achieve.

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