Iran's top air defense commander Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli announced that a U-2 stealth aircraft was alarmed last week to stay away from the country's borders after Iranian missile shields locked on the US spy plane.
"Last week a U-2 spy plane was tracked in the proximity of our country's borders; our missile systems came into action and we warned the aircraft and made it make a U-turn," Gen. Esmayeeli said addressing a students gathering in the Northeastern city of Mashhad Sunday night marking the national Students Day.
The General reminded that U-2 is a stealth aircraft which cannot be picked up by any radar screen in the regional states, "but it was tracked and identified by our systems".
U-2 is an American spy plane which was first built decades ago, but has been redesigned and upgraded in the last 60 years.
Area 51 was a covert CIA facility located in the remote desert of Nevada. For decades, the secretive place created a multitude of conspiracy theories about UFOs and aliens. But in reality the government workers stationed there were busy designing and developing high-altitude spy planes -- most notably the U-2 aircraft.
In August, 2013, many of the details and history around Area 51 and U-2 planes were released in a recently declassified report by the CIA titled "The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974."
General Esmayeeli further noted the shooting down of the Israeli Hermes drone in Summer, and said finding the small drone is like finding needle in a haystack. "We should take good care not to harm passenger planes when identifying and shooting down such drones."
He said the shooting down of the Israeli Hermes drone in August was a product of well-concerted efforts by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Army.
The IRGC Aerospace Force shot down an Israeli spy drone before it could reach Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, in Central Iran late in August.
The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload UAV, designed for tactical long endurance missions.
It has a flight endurance of over 20 hours, with a primary mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay.
The IRGC Public Relations Department said in a statement in late August that the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a radar-evading, stealth drone with the mission to spy on Iran's enrichment activities by flying over Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.
The IRGC also pointed out in its statement that the Israeli hostile aircraft was targeted by a surface-to-air missile.
Then senior IRGC officials announced hours later that their experts were decoding the intelligence devices of the Israeli spy drone.
Director of the IRGC's Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif told FNA that some of the parts of the downed aircraft were working, "and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts".
"We are now analyzing the information of this plane," he added.
Then, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced a few days later that the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a Hermes-type drone.
"The downed spy drone is Hermes and made in Israel," General Hajizadeh said.
He said the operational range of Hermes drones is 800 kilometers, adding that the aircraft can fly 1,600 kilometers by refueling once.
The General said parts of the aircraft had burnt out after it was targeted by the ground-to-air missiles of the IRGC Aerospace Force and after its fuel tank blast, yet "some parts of this drone are intact and we are now analyzing the information and intel of these parts".
Elaborating on the details of the down Israeli aircraft, the commander further stated that the drone, which is 5.5 meters wide in wings, was equipped with two cameras which could take high-quality photos.
"There was no prior information available about the aircraft and the only one of this type had been downed in Syria, but this one is more advanced," General Hajizadeh said.
A few days later another Hermes drone was hunted in Iraq.
Iran has so far downed several US drones in the last few years. In the most notable case the country announced on December 4, 2011 that its defense forces had downed a US RQ-170 aircraft through a sophisticated cyber attack. The drone was the first such loss by the US. US officials have described the loss of the aircraft in Iran as a setback and a fatal blow to the stealth drone program.
The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA's fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
The unmanned surveillance plane lost by the United States in Iran was a stealth aircraft being used for secret missions by the CIA, US officials admitted in December. The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA's fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
Since December, 2011, Iran has hunted down several more US drones of various types.
In January 2013, a deputy commander of the Iranian Navy announced that the country's Army had hunted two more advanced RQ type UAVs.
"The air-defense units of the Army have hunted two enemy drones," Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Coordination Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari told FNA.
"These drones were from 11th series of the RQ class, and one of them was hunted in Shahrivar 1390 (August 21-September 19, 2011) and the other one in Aban (October 22-November 20, 2012)," Rastegari said, adding that the Army research center is now studying the two UAVs.
"Much of the data of these drones has been decoded by the Army's Jihad and Research Center," he said, but did not provide any further detail.
The remarks by the Iranian commander came after Iran announced on December 4, 2012 that the IRGC Navy had hunted a US UAV over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country's airspace.
The IRGC navy commander announced at the time that the hunted UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that "such drones are usually launched from large warships".
ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
Iran later reproduced its own model of ScanEagle through reverse engineering techniques.
Iran has downed many other US drones as well, and always started reproducing them after conducting reverse engineering on them.
The Iranian model of RQ-170 staged a flight for the media last month.
In relevant remarks in October, General Hajizadeh said that Iran moved as much as 35 years ahead in building drone engines by reverse engineering the US drone, RQ-170 which was tracked and hunted down in Iran late in 2011.
The RQ-170 engines are the fifth generation and the engines of Iranian unmanned planes are the third generation, Hajizadeh said, adding that to produce the engine we had to spend 35 years on the project.
He said that the home-made version of the US drone RQ-170 captured by the IRGC would make its maiden flight in the near future.