On Thursday, Iranian media reported that the country had managed to penetrate the U.S. Army’s Command Center and commandeer several U.S. drones in Iraq and Syria.
The revelation was announced by Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who commands the elite Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“Seven to eight drones that had constant flights over Syria and Iraq were brought under our control and their intel was monitored by us and we could gain their first-hand intel,” he said, according to Iran’s FARS news agency.
FARS also released several clips it says were taken from U.S. surveillance drones following the hack, in what it called “one of the many proofs in support of General Hajizadeh’s remarks.”
The videos show reconnaissance footage taken by an assortment of drones, including visuals of an MQ-9 Reaper drone crashing into the ground after a communications breakdown between the device and its operator. At the end of the three-minute video, the totaled drone is shown strewn on the ground. U.S. troops approaching the drone can be seen avoiding close contact, due to fears that the device may have been compromised.
“The footage shows a U.S. flying drone [that] starts malfunctioning and makes a rough landing in a desert area 10 kilometers away from its base,” reported FARS. “The footage that displays the IRGC’s penetration into the U.S. spy drone’s intel has been recorded by an IRGC drone flying above the scene.”
U.S. military officials have not yet publicly addressed the breach since FARS published the story on Thursday.
Iran has successfully downed U.S. drones in the past. In 2011, Tehran intercepted a U.S. army RQ-170 Sentinel during a recon mission over Iranian airspace, causing the aircraft to crash. Tehran subsequently reverse engineered the RQ-170 and started producing its local spinoff.
If indeed as reported, the hack would constitute a major accomplishment for the Islamic Republic, which has been heavily investing in its drone and cyber capabilities in recent years. U.S. State Department cables that WikiLeaks released as far back as 2010 revealed that Iran was attempting to purchase Limbach 550E engines for its drone program by using a front company controlled by Iran’s Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company.