US weighed 3 options for destroying downed RQ-170

U.S. officials considered a covert raid to either destroy or recover the wreckage of a stealth RQ-170 unmanned aircraft that crashed in the rugged terrain of Eastern Iran last week, but decided that a military operation of that nature might spark a declaration of war from that country’s leadership, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The officials considered three options for ensuring that the Iranians could not recover the wreckage and study the advanced aircraft design and sensor technologies. One option involved sending a team of commandos from Afghanistan and also allied agents inside Iran to the site of the wreckage. Another option was to insert a team into the area to blow up the remains of the unmanned aircraft. Yet another option, which would not have involved ground forces, was to destroy the remains with an air strike.

The CIA, which uses Defense Department unmanned aircraft for secret missions, lost control of the aircraft in what is believed to be a major software or mechanical failure, reports the The Christian Science Monitor. In the absence of a disclosure from the U.S. government as to the nature of the mission in which the crashed RQ-170 was engaged, defense analysts have offered different explanations, the Monitor said.

On the one hand, the RQ-170 might have been furnishing persistent surveillance of Iranian weapons of mass destruction facilities that would be useful in determining the best time of day for an attack on them. On the other hand, it might have been used as a way to track insurgent movements back and forth between Iran and Afghanistan.

While the Iranians might not be able to take full advantage of the wreckage for the purpose of studying and copying the technology, it would be of a major boon to either Russia or China if the Iranians chose to share the technology with those global rivals of the United States, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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