A ScanEagle launched from a US Navy “aircraft carrier”—a MK V special warfare patrol boat off the coast of San Clemente Island, in February of 2008.

The Iranian military claims it captured a US Navy drone in the Persian Gulf. In an interview with Iran’s state-run Press TV, Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said his forces “hunted down” the drone after it was detected entering Iranian airspace and then forced it down electronically. Iranian state media further claimed the ScanEagle had been launched on a spy mission from an American aircraft carrier.

But it’s more likely the Iranians came across the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle drone they displayed by some other means. And whether the drone was ever launched from a US ship is open to question, as the ScanEagle is flown by the military of many countries. It’s been used by ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as by the Navy. The small, relatively inexpensive ScanEagle, based on a design originally used by commercial tuna fishermen searching for the catch of the day, may itself have been hauled up in a fishing net some time ago.

Iranian state television’s report on the “capture” of a ScanEagle drone.

Commander Jason Salata, a spokesperson for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, said all its drones are accounted for and none have been lost recently. (Salata did admit some “have been lost into the water” in the past.) And the loss of a ScanEagle wouldn’t exactly be an international incident. Four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, the ScanEagle has a top speed of 80 miles an hour and is powered by a German engine originally designed for lawnmowers. This is no Predator. But it can stay in the air for as long as 30 hours at a time to provide a persistent electronic eye in the sky.

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