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U.S. gives up covert plan to retrieve drone downed in Iran: report


10:19, December 08, 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The United States had considered but finally given up a covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy a stealth drone crashed last week, for fear that such actions could provoke explosive clash with Iran, U.S. officials were quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The U.S. officials insisted that the RQ-170 drone was not shot down by Iran, instead it developed mechanical difficulties and remote pilots of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) lost control of the unmanned aircraft, the Wall Street Journal reported.

After immediately knowing the drone had crashed in eastern Iran, U.S. officials considered various options for retrieving the wreckage. Under one plan, a team would be sent inside Iran to retrieve the aircraft. U.S. officials considered both sending in a team of American commandos based in Afghanistan as well as using allied agents inside Iran to hunt down the downed aircraft, the report said.

Another option would have had a team sneak into Iran to blow up the remaining pieces of the drone. A third option would have been to destroy the wreckage with an airstrike.

But, the officials ultimately gave up the mission to retrieve or destroy the drone, fearing they would have risked discovery by Iran. If an assault team entered the country, the U.S. "could be accused of an act of war" by the Iranian government, the officials were quoted as saying.

The RQ-170 drone is an unmanned aircraft which has been used for reconnaissance and surveillance by the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Despite the Iranian claims, the U.S. officials denied that the drone was brought down by Iran, either through hacking its satellite link or by shooting it down.

U.S. officials are concerned that the craft's falling into Iranian hands could lead to security breach, although they said the aircraft's technology cannot be reverse engineered with ease.

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