Iran is claiming they've finally cracked the computer system and accessed information stored on the U.S. drone they captured in December of last year, and now they're building their own.
Iranian General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told state television that they've unlocked the "codes" of the RQ-170 Sentinel aircraft, and in an effort to prove his claims the general released some information apparently taken from the plane's computers. Hajizadeh listed off the aircraft's mission and repair history in an effort to convince they've unlocked the encrypted information stored in the aircraft:
Hajizadeh claimed that the drone flew over Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan two weeks before the al-Qaida leader was killed there in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs. He did not say how the Iranian experts knew this.
Before that, he said, "this drone was in California on Oct. 16, 2010, for some technical work and was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan on Nov. 18, 2010. It conducted flights there but apparently faced problems and (U.S. experts) were unable to fix it," he said.
Hajizadeh called the drone a "national asset" for Iran, and said that, "there is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft. We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God." While Iran claims to be building a copy of the aircraft now, at the time of the drone's capture it seemed unlikely they would even have the resources to do it.
In December when the news first broke, Iran claimed to have shot the drone down. U.S. officials denied those reports, saying the drone wasn't shot down, but wouldn't give any details as to how or why it crashed or went off course. If the the information that General Hajizadeh released today is true, the frequent trips to repair facilities would lend some credence to U.S. claims that the drone wasn't shot down, but malfunctioned somehow instead.
The general did deny reports that Russia and China have asked for information on the drone.