Iran will reverse-engineer the US drone it has in its possession, and is in the "final stages" of unlocking the aircraft's software secrets, the head of Iran's parliamentary national security committee said on Monday.
"Our next action will be to reverse-engineer the aircraft," Parviz Sorouri said, according to the website of Iranian state television.
"In the near future, we will be able to mass produce it.... Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American (drone) using reverse-engineering," he was quoted as saying.
Iran says it captured the sophisticated US drone, a bat-winged stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel, on December 4 as it was flying in its airspace.
It claimed a Revolutionary Guards cyber-warfare unit hacked the aircraft's flight controls, and it presented what it said was the drone on state television on Thursday.
US officials, who reportedly said the drone was flying a CIA mission over Iran, have expressed scepticism that Iran has the technology to perform such a hacking feat. They said it was more likely the drone suffered a malfunction.
They have also cast doubts over Iran's ability to replicate the drone -- at least without the help of Russia or China.
"US capabilities are remarkably advanced, and it's unclear that the Iranians have the expertise" to exploit the advanced know-how in the aircraft, a US official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said last week.
But Sorouri said "we are in the final stages of cracking (the drone's) code."
He predicted that "we will acquire valuable intelligence through deciphering the Americans' covert intelligence and espionage methods once the code is cracked," but added he could not say when the software would be finally unlocked.
Sorouri also said, "We will not need Russian or Chinese cooperation" to copy the drone.
"They will definitely not be involved. This great defensive capability is reserved for us, and we are not ready to share it with others," he said.
"We will use this capability as a deterrence. And I doubt the Islamic republic would share this technology with other countries."
Iran said in 2010 it was working on making reconnaissance drones, fuelling US unease that such an ambition could threaten its forces deployed in the Middle East.
by Amy Coopes
(c) 2011 AFP
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