According to an article published by DEBKAfile military intelligence website, Iranians not only unlocked the Sentinel’s secret software but also penetrated the command and control center running the drones from CIA Headquarters at Langley in McClean, Virginia. They then delved into the satellite connection between Langley and the drone.
The article pointed out that Iranian electronic experts subsequently reprogrammed the directives guiding the satellite and the RQ-170 stealth drone by falsifying the images appearing on the screens at Langley.
The drone misrepresented as complying with its original programming although it had been commandeered by Iran and was obeying its new masters.
The CIA handlers of the RQ-170 Sentinel drone did not activate the aircraft’s self-destruct mechanism because they were not aware it was out of their control.
By the time it was discovered, it was too late; since the mechanism along with the rest of the drone’s systems had been disconnected and passed to Iranian controllers.
The capture of the RQ-170 stealth drone by Iranian Army’s electronic warfare unit occurred as the advanced US-built reconnaissance was on its very first mission over Iran. Its seizure at the moment means that Iranians were alerted in advance about the precise moment of its secret arrival.
On December 4, Iran downed with minimum damage the US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft which was flying over the eastern city of Kashmar, some 225km (140 miles) from the Afghan border.
Iran announced that it would carry out reverse engineering on the captured RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft, which is also known as the Beast of Kandahar, and is similar in design to a US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on December 12 that Washington has submitted a formal request to Tehran to ask for the return of the captured drone.
Following the formal US request, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, said one day later that the aircraft would remain in the country’s possession as it is the asset of the Islamic Republic.
Tehran says that the US drone spy mission was a “hostile act,” and has lodged a complaint with the United Nations over the violation of its air sovereignty by the reconnaissance aircraft.