November 10, 2014 / 11:52 AM / 5 years ago

Iranian-built copy of U.S. drone takes first flight: IRNA

An undated picture received December 8, 2011 shows a member of Iran's revolutionary guard pointing at the U.S. RQ-170 unmanned spy plane as he speaks with Amirali Hajizadeh (R), a revolutionary guard commander, at an unknown location in Iran. REUTERS/Sepah Handout

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian copy of a U.S. reconnaissance drone captured in 2011 has taken its first flight, state news agency IRNA reported on Monday.

In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran that had been reported lost by U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

“We promised that a model of RQ-170 would fly in the second half of the year, and this has happened,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told IRNA. “A film of the flight will be released soon.”

In a video posted by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voiced satisfaction at the news after seeing a replica of the drone, saying: “Today is a very sweet and unforgettable day for me.”

Following reports of the drone’s capture, Iranian commanders said they had extracted valuable technology from the aircraft and were in the process of reverse-engineering it for their own defense industry.

In May, Iran unveiled a copy of the RQ-170 drone, an aircraft manufactured by U.S. defense technology company Lockheed Martin (LMT.N).

The United States has said the security system meant Iran was unlikely to get valuable information from the drone.

Reporting By Michelle Moghtader; Editing by Noah Browning and Janet Lawrence

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