The Pentagon denied that Iran had shot down any of its drone surveillance aircraft in the Gulf but acknowledged some spy planes had crashed in the past due to mechanical failure.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted a senior Revolutionary Guards commander on Sunday as saying Iran had shot down two unmanned Western reconnaissance drone aircraft in the Gulf.
Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the elite forces’ aerospace unit, did not say when the alleged incidents took place or produce proof that they had happened, Reuters reports.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said there were “no recent reports that would corroborate what the Revolutionary Guard said about unmanned aerial vehicles.”
Another US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the last incident he was aware of involved a drone aircraft crashing in the Gulf in early 2009. Like others before it, the crash was due to mechanical failure and the aircraft landed in international waters, the official said.
“We have had cases in which UAVs have gone down in the Gulf … but I don’t have any indication (of a case) where a UAV has been taken down by hostile fire in the Gulf,” the official said.
After a U.S. military review of past crashes, the official said there were no reports of any UAVs being shot down over the Gulf at any time in the past.
Iran is at odds with major powers over its nuclear activities, which the United States and its allies suspect are aimed at producing a nuclear weapon. Tehran has denied the allegations and said it wants only to generate electricity.
The United States and Israel, Iran’s main foes, have not ruled out military action if diplomacy failed to end the nuclear row.
Iran has dismissed reports of possible US or Israeli plans for a military strike, but said it would respond by attacking US interests and Israel in the event of such an assault.
Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway.