The Iranian government has complained to the United Nations about a U.S. spy drone it says was brought down over eastern Iran this week. Iran accuses the U.S. of violating Iranian airspace and has released video of what Tehran says is the spy plane in question.
Iranian state TV released images late Thursday of what it said was an unmanned U.S. drone downed recently just inside Iran's eastern border. The images appear to be the high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel drone, brought down somehow with minimum damage.
U.S. officials refuse to confirm whether this is a U.S. spy aircraft, but Pentagon spokesman George Little acknowledges the fear of losing its technology.
"Technology falling into the wrong hands? Separate and apart from this specific instance - I'm not confirming anything - when U.S. technology falls into the wrong hands, it's always a concern," said Little.
Earlier this year, the United States abandoned a stealth helicopter that malfunctioned during the raid targeting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. If this is the drone known as the "Beast of Kandahar," then, like the helicopter, its basic shape, even its skin, is secret.
But the CATO Institute's Chris Preble said losing this type of technology to the Iranians is not that big of a threat. He said the U.S. has used drones for at least the past decade as one of many surveillance and defense techniques.
"The question is whether or not we, the United States, and the other Western powers that are watching the Iranians will change the mix of assets used to monitor them," said Preble.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report citing intelligence about Iranian efforts to develop the technology needed to build nuclear weapons.
Western powers suspect Iran is trying to develop such weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.