The U.S. Navy reports that all of its Boeing-designed ScanEagle unmanned surveillance aircraft are “fully accounted for” in the Persian Gulf region. Iran claimed earlier today it had captured one of the drones, with video appearing on the state television station showing Iranians examining what appears to be a ScanEagle.
There are other countries in the region operating ScanEagles, including the United Arab Emirates. In an AP report, the Navy also acknowledges that some of the shipborne drones have been lost at sea over the years, but “there is no record of that occurring most recently,” according to Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
One theory is that the drone may have been plucked from the water some time ago, and held for display at a strategic time. Tensions with Iran have escalated recently due to U.S. surveillance missions and Iran’s controversial nuclear development programs.
There have been other incidents involving drones flying in the region. Last month, a U.S. Predator unmanned aircraft was fired upon by Iran, but the Pentagon denies it was hit, and in December 2011, a CIA RQ-170 Sentinel drone was captured by Iran. The U.S. claims it has not violated Iranian airspace with drone flights, but Iran claims all the incidents occurred after the drones entered its airspace.