November 12, 2006

Iran Fakes Drone Carrier Footage (Update: Or Not)

I just saw a short clip on Fox News where the Iranian government showed grainy, near-overhead footage of a U.S. aircraft carrier, and claimed this was evidence that an Iranian drone was able penetrate U.S. fleet radar and air cover, a story also covered by

Um... no.

Iran actually made this claim once before back in August (in the video clip above), going as far as say that their drone repeatedly circled the USS Ronald Reagan before it was even noticed, and that the U.S. attempted to shoot down the drone, but failed. Iran, or course, had zero evidence to support that claim.

But the apparent proof that Iran's latest "drone" video is fake may be contained in the footage itself.


The grainy footage shows what is undoubtably the angled deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier, but on that carrier deck are aircraft, including what appears to be a different fighter on the port waist of the deck than the F/A-18s, EA-6s, and E-2Cs one would currently expect on modern U.S. carriers. Could those planes be F-14 Tomcats?

The Iranian's imply their video was taken during military exercises in the past week. The F-14 Tomcat was retired in February. If Iran means to imply that this video was taken during their war games of the past week and the video released does indeed show retired aircraft, it would suggest that Iran was lying.

But Iran wouldn't lie, would they?

Update: Russian news sites are disputing the authenticy of the video.

They should. Expecting that a drone could penetrate the nine ship-mounted radars of a Nimitz-class supercarrier, plus the AWACS radar on the E-2C Hawkeyes it has aloft at all times, plus AEGIS-equipped ships in the carrier group, plus the radar of aircraft flying close air support, and be able to then circle directly above the carrier at an altitude of at least several thousand feet and return in one piece is something that, quite frankly, only an idiot would believe.

Mmmmm... Crow: Not F-14s on the port waist, but almost as large F/A-18Cs, ans clearly shown in this much better video. The angled rudders are a dead giveaway. In other words, the video is not necessarily old footage, though whether or not the U.S. knew of the drone is still up in the air.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 12, 2006 09:58 AM | TrackBack

Correct you are; more lies from the Iranian leaders.

Setting aside the fact that this "unmanned plane" would have to penetrate about 3-4 different layers of the world's most secure radar coverage (AEGIS alone makes that highly unlikely), and setting aside the obvious problems with the F-14's on deck (the last carrier Tomcat cruise ended in June) ... just listen to the what the Iranian commander claims:

"[The vessel's] commander ordered all the planes to be removed from the deck of the aircraft carrier." --- this is almost laughable b/c it is so wrong.

If you maybe didn't know, moving that many aircraft requires a HELL OF A LOT OF EFFORT as well as A HELL OF A LOT OF TIME.

There are only two possible reasons why would want to hide your aircraft:
1) you don't want pictures taken of them,
2) you are afraid they will be destroyed/damaged.

1) A drone instantly takes pictures, so there'd be no point to moving them AFTER it is detected ... If that isn't enough to convince you, check out and see how many pictures of US aircraft you can find; these aren't secret aircraft.

2) Considering the amount of time required to store these below deck, no senior officer would try to protect his aircraft this way ... In fact, LAUNCHING them would make more sense -
a) they could be vectored toward the unidentified aircraft and
b) moving targets would be much harder to hit

I just hope no one believes this propaganda. The sad thing is the Iranian people largely don't like their government and are actually quite receptive to the US ... this is just a bunch of hardliners trying to prove they're tough to their Arab neighbors.

Remember: there will always be those who don't like the guy with the bigger house, nicer car, and hotter wife - regardless of how nice he is ... it's called jealousy, and it's a deadly sin.

Posted by: Dan at November 12, 2006 04:12 PM

The sad thing is the Iranian people largely don't like their government and are actually quite receptive to the US ...

Not really. You Americans like to tell yourselves that, but mostly, the rest of the world thinks you're all fat and stupid.

...with good reason, of course. Still, your child-like approach to geopolitics is awfully charming.

Posted by: The Rest of the World at November 12, 2006 04:22 PM

I believe the two aircraft on the waist catapults are either S-3 Viking ASW planes or EA-6B Prowlers. The Hawkeye on catapult 1 is unmistakable. Many of the aircraft on the forward part of the flight deck are F/A 18s; I can't tell what the aircraft parked aft are because the quality of the video still is so bad.

What gets me thinking this footage is phony is the absence of a ready alert. With tensions with Iran so high, I'd expect the Persian Gulf is considered a potential-combat zone. A Nimitz-class carrier has four catapults. On this carrier, Catapult Two is obstructed by parked planes, and out of the other three, one has a Hawkeye spotted, and two have Prowlers. There don't appear to be any fighters ready to launch. No ready alert in a potential-combat zone?

Posted by: wolfwalker at November 12, 2006 05:27 PM

Longer video here.

Looks like a training mission to me....

Posted by: Eagle1 at November 12, 2006 10:35 PM

So what have you established? That Iranians can provide fake multimedia presentations as well as Colin Powell could?

Posted by: pastor maker at November 12, 2006 10:44 PM

Tell us, pastor maker - or should that be pasture muffin maker - where do YOU have clear evidence that Colin Powell provided fake multimedia presentations?

Another blow hard troll in our midst?

Posted by: Retired Spy at November 13, 2006 08:17 AM

I haven't been able to watch the video yet, but some points:

-The ship in the photo is clearly a Nimitz class.

-Reports saying it was the Reagan are clearly wrong since she was most recently reported off SoCal conducting Carquals:

-The Eisenhower is the last Nimitz class in the vicinity, and she was in the Red Sea on Nov 3:

CY, in your photo here:

...I will opine those are in fact Super Hornets and not F-14s. Tomcats alwys appear as a shrp "traingle" when spotted on deck and the "Rhino" tail feathers are evident in the above photo.

On a side note, on the first day of the Marine landing in lebanon in August 1982 the Israelis had a drone airborne over the port. I was aboard the DDG which had the job of maintaining the air picture. Not unitl I saw a cover of a photo taken from that UAV some months later -it had a date/time stamp which showed I was on watch when it was taken- that any of us were aware it was ever there...

Posted by: sid at November 13, 2006 10:52 AM

Fixed for clarity. It was an AvWeek cover I saw the photo on...

On a side note, on the first day of the Marine landing in lebanon in August 1982 the Israelis had a drone airborne over the port. I was aboard the DDG which had the job of maintaining the air picture. Not unitl I saw an Aviation Week cover of a photo taken from that UAV some months later -it had a date/time stamp which showed I was on watch when it was taken- that any of us were aware it was ever there...

Posted by: sid at November 13, 2006 11:13 AM

A complete video is available here:

http://video dot google dot com/videogvp/IraniandronespingUSa.gvp?docid=-324294841727623684

Some observations:
1. The hull number which is prominently painted on the forward flight deck of American carriers is not visible anywhere in this video.

2. In the upper right corner of the full frame is a much smaller frame. This looks like it might be a magnified image of a portion of the main frame.

3. Later in the video, and aircraft can be clearly seen launching from one of the waist catapults.

4. Aircraft can be observed in flight in the near vicinity of the carrier.

5. A surface warship is visible in the video but not identifiable because of the extremely poor resolution.

We need someone familiar with, ideally actively involved in, modern carrier operations to evaluate this video. It may be someones home movie, or an official video of an exercise.

I doubt that the video is from an Iranian drone, although I do not have sufficient technical knowledge to assert claims about how good our radar coverage is. Can Aegis detect a wooden drone hacked together from model airplane parts?

The question is then where did the Iranians get the video?

Posted by: Earl at November 13, 2006 03:53 PM

Regarding my comment above, your site will not accept a comment containing a google address for some strange reason so the URL above has the periods replaced with the word " dot ".

Posted by: Earl at November 13, 2006 03:56 PM

After watching the video, I say its legit.

I'd say its recent too since no S-3s are aboard and Super Hornets are.

The deck is spotted with an alert package and they are in the process of launching it.

Now, whether or not the UAV had been spotted for some period before, is another question entirely...

Posted by: sid at November 13, 2006 08:16 PM

Watched the video some more and I am even more convinced its likely real.

Again, that is NOT to say that the presence of the drone went undetected by the USN or that it really represents a truly viable threat (but it IS worrisome no matter what in that is shows where they are headed with such capabilities).

Assuming it is in fact video from an Iranian UAV some real quetions arise:

How was it controlled?
Likely wasn't autonomous given the moving target.

How was it navigated overhead the carrier?

Was the video linked back or taped?
(note the EMI patterns in the video)

As of Nov 7th, the Eisenhower is in the Gulf...

The carrier is turning into the wind in preparation for launch. Checkout the wave pattern for a sense of the surface winds.

The ship is spotted in a typical "alert" configuration. There are two sections of F-18s on the waist cats and an E-2 forward.
Contrary to your assertion CY, I will opine that she had no aircraft aloft (other than maybe helos). Carriers don't have aircraft aloft ALL the time.

The surface ship seen very briefly is a Ticonderoga class CG. Real good probabilities it is the Anzio which is deployed with the Eisenhower...

The deck numbers are painted on much more ghostly than they used to be. Checkout this picture again...

Also note there are no S-3s are present on deck. They are being retired and CVWs are deploying now without them. The carrier in the Iranian video has no S-3s on deck either. My bet its the Ike in that video.

Some things to remember. The carrier is there in part to protect Freedom of Navigation. Since this purported encounter took part in international waters (or most likely did given how the carrier is maneuvering), then the Iranian UAV had every right to be there.
And if it was determined to not represent hostile intent than there would be little reason to react in any significant way to it.
Indeed, there would be every reason NOT to....

One last rub though. Pilotless vehicles tooling about makes airspace deconfliction a real issue.
Now what if it had been at night and the drone wondered into the vicinity of marshall and there was a midair?

That nightmare scenario would make the pooh hit the rotating blades in a BIG way!

Somebody had best be thinking of an adjunct to IncSea agreements that covers UAVs....

Posted by: sid at November 13, 2006 10:13 PM

>do YOU have clear evidence that Colin Powell provided fake multimedia presentations?

Well, there's this. Nothing in it that is at all specutaltive panned out. Read it yourself. Curveball, aluminum tubes, UAVs, Mobile Production Facilities for Biological Agensts, AQ No. 3 s, and much more. The main rhetorical points in favor of occupying Iraq are brief but generally still true:

>Nothing points more clearly to Saddam Hussein's dangerous intentions and the threat he poses to all of us than his calculated cruelty to his own citizens and to his neighbors. Clearly, Saddam Hussein and his regime will stop at nothing until something stops him.

>For more than 20 years, by word and by deed, Saddam Hussein has pursued his ambition to dominate Iraq and the broader Middle East using the only means he knows: intimidation, coercion and annihilation of all those who might stand in his way. For Saddam Hussein, possession of the world's most deadly weapons is the ultimate trump card, the one he must hold to fulfill his ambition.

>We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression, given what we know of his grandiose plans, given what we know of his terrorist associations, and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not someday use these weapons at a time and a place and in a manner of his choosing, at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond?

>The United States will not and cannot run that risk for the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world.

>My colleagues, over three months ago, this Council recognized that Iraq continued to pose a threat to international peace and security, and that Iraq had been and remained in material breach of its disarmament obligations.

A good troll would have an opinon about the authenticity of the carrier video but I don't know Iranian video from Youtube.

Posted by: numberfourpencil at November 14, 2006 12:56 AM

Beyond all the other issues discussed already, the Iranian video looks as if it were taken with a hand-held camera. The panning and zooming is typical of an excited amateur videographer. Each shot has the jiggling and response times of a direct human operator. These kind of motions and response times just don't happen in a system dependent on robotic motions and lagging man/machine feedback times. It would take an extraordinary useless effort to build a drone to imitate both the good and the bad behaviors in this video.

Posted by: photoman at November 14, 2006 12:21 PM

If you look in the right bottom corner during parts of the video you will see a black, possibly curved, object come on camera.

While it could be a multitude of things, the first thing that popped into my head was the curved corners of passenger aircraft windows. It seems possible to me that, as Photoman said, this was filmed by a person in a conventional aircraft flying over the gulf, or anywhere else for that matter. Don't know if its true or not but it is food for thought.

Posted by: Endyr at November 15, 2006 03:05 AM