updated 5/3/2012 1:15:44 PM ET 2012-05-03T17:15:44

Iran officials claim they have reverse-engineered an American spy drone that went down inside its borders last year, and have used the stolen data to build a drone of their own.

In a state television address yesterday (April 22), Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the aerospace division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards, offered proof that engineers have cracked the U.S. drone's software, Iran's Mehr News Agency reported.

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By reverse-engineering the drone, Iranian officials discovered that it was sent to California for repairs on Oct. 17, 2010, and then back to Kandahar on Nov. 19. These details, Hajizadeh said, could not have been known unless the drone's classified software had been cracked.

"There is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft," Hajizadeh said, according to Time. "We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God."


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Hajizadeh said his engineers were able to determine that following further repairs in Los Angeles in December 2010, the drone, in May 2011, conducted flights in Pakistan over the area where Osama bin Laden was living two weeks before he was killed.

"If we had not acquired access to the software and hardware of the plane, we could not have figured out these issues," Hajizadeh said.

The drone, a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel (nicknamed the "Beast of Kandahar"), went down 140 miles inside Iran's eastern border with Afghanistan on Dec. 4. Rumors swirled that Iran "hacked" the spy drone and forced it to land inside its walls, but several security experts argued that more than likely the Sentinel malfunctioned.

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"More than 50 years of the Americans' technology of manned and unmanned aircraft has been used in this spy drone," Hajizadeh said. "All the technologies that the Americans have used in the F-35 aircraft, stealth bombers, the Polecat, etc., have been used in this spy plane."

Hajizadeh added that in addition to delving into the drone's encrypted software and hardware, Iran has also built its own copy of the Sentinel.

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