TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Saturday it has determined that two pilotless spy planes it claims to have shot down were operated by the United States, and offered to put them on public display.
The air force of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard said earlier this month that it shot down two highly advanced spy planes that had violated Iranian airspace. It provided no timeframe or proof. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the Gulf, said at the time that it had no reports of any aircraft downed recently.
On Saturday, Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency quoted the head of the Guard's naval force, Gen. Ali Fadavi, as saying Tehran will show the two small reconnaissance planes publicly.
"These aircraft are now in our possession," Fadavi was quoted as saying. "We will definitely display them at an appropriate time."
It was not clear when Iran downed the pilotless planes, but Iranian officials have hinted that they deliberately didn't make an announcement at the time to avoid tensions with the U.S.
Fadavi said the drones were among "the most advanced unmanned reconnaissance planes in the U.S. Navy with high flight capabilities." He did not elaborate.
Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which the West believes aims to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is peaceful.
Iran holds frequent military drills along the Persian Gulf – primarily to assert an ability to defend against a potential U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, but also to send a message of strength to Arab neighbors on Iran's southern border.