Crashed Drone Was Part of Fleet Spying on Iran

US considered a retrieval mission, but decided against it
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2011 7:39 AM CST
In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(Newser) – The CIA drone that was lost in Iran over the weekend is part of a fleet that has been spying on Iran for years, US officials tell the AP. The US has a number of stealth aircraft at a base in Shindad, Afghanistan, as part of an effort to establish a long-term presence there for surveillance and possibly special ops. After the drone crashed, US officials considered a covert mission to retrieve or destroy it, but decided it was too risky, the Wall Street Journal notes.

An official says that the US knew immediately when the drone crashed in a remote part of eastern Iran. A "catastrophic" malfunction is suspected, as the drone was programmed to return to base even if it lost its data link, Reuters notes. The AP adds that the drone crashed while deep in Iran's airspace, 140 miles from the Afghan border in Kashmar. Officials initially thought Iran failed to detect it and feared being accused of an act of war if a team entered the country to retrieve it. Click for more on the secrets the drone could reveal to Iran.

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