Fact Check: Was Iran President’s Helicopter Hit By A Space Laser?

This X post states a false claim that Raisi's helicopter was shot down by lasers

The real helicopter and the helicopter shown in the X post have clear differences Image: IRNA/UPI/newscom/picture allianc

This X post states a false claim that Raisi’s helicopter was shot down by lasers

LAGOS MAY 23RD (NEWSRANGERS)-A viral post on X claims that a space laser weapon targeted the helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian. Here is why the claim is unfounded.

Laser technology is advancing rapidly within the military industry. Armed forces in countries including the US, China, the UK and Israel have reported significant developments in laser weapons that can heat, disrupt, or burn aerial targets such as drones and cruise missiles from tens of kilometers away. Meanwhile, the internet is inundated with dubious claims about the latest advanced laser weapons stationed in space, including claims related to the helicopter accident involving the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi

Do space lasers capable of downing a helicopter exist?

Claim: “The president of Iran obviously had his helicopter shot out of the sky by a space laser!” wrote one user

on the platform X, formerly Twitter. An image allegedly shows the helicopter that was involved in the crash of Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi. The X post has more than 29 million views at the time of this article’s publication (at the time of archiving, the post had roughly 24.5 million views).

DW fact check: False.

A laser weapon capable of downing a helicopter from space does not exist. If it did, we would already know about it because it would be too large to conceal, according to Dr. Iain Boyd

, professor of aerospace engineering sciences and director of the Center for National Security Initiatives in Colorado, US.

“To critically damage a vehicle flying relatively close to the ground from space using directed energy, such as a laser or a microwave, would require an enormous weapon in space, much larger than the International Space Station,” Boyd told DW.

Even if such a weapon existed, accurately maneuvering it from space to hit a target on the ground would be extremely challenging.

“A laser must maintain its focus on a single spot for several seconds to cause any damage. With the spacecraft moving at 28,800 kilometers (17,895 miles) per hour and the helicopter also in motion, this would be nearly impossible,” Boyd said.

In addition, laser beams degrade over long distances, and factors such as humidity and dust can diffuse the beam and reduce its effectiveness

. The helicopter transporting President Raisi and the Iranian Foreign Minister crashed in mountainous terrain amid sudden, dense fog, as a meteorological database

shows. Boyd noted that such weather conditions would create additional challenges for a space-based weapon.

No cause has been offered by Iran’s government for the crash so far. Authorities have said

that a high-ranking delegation from Iran’s military will investigate the incident and later release a report.

Does the post show Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter?

It’s always worth checking the source of information you find online. In this case, the X account that posted the image of the helicopter has shared many unfounded conspiracy theories in the past. Several of the posts they shared already come with community notes on X that point out false information.

There is also something wrong with the helicopter post on a visual level. You can do a reverse image search on websites like Google, Yandex

or TinEye. When we did, we came across an archived website

with the headline “The Large Fantasy About Helicopter Crashes You Shouldn’t Consider.”

The picture on the website shows the same burning helicopter as in the above X post. At the top left of the website, you can see that the article with this picture was first published in December 2023. So the image itself is already at least five months old and cannot be related to the helicopter accident in which Iranian president Raisi died.

On closer inspection, it’s also noticeable that the helicopter image looks like it has been manipulated. The wreckage does not look realistic nor does the helicopter tail or the flames. The helicopter was apparently cut out and pasted into a landscape background. Additionally, it would not have been possible to see the helicopter so clearly in dense fog.


The real helicopter and the helicopter shown in the X post have clear differencesImage: IRNA/UPI/newscom/picture allianc

The real helicopter and the helicopter shown in the X post have clear differences
Image: IRNA/UPI/newscom/picture allianc

DW’s fact check team compared the picture of the helicopter with other official photospublished by the Iranian state mediaand other news outlets

of the helicopter carrying Raisi while it took off near the Iran-Azerbaijan border on May 19 before it crashed. There are clear differences. The blue stripes of the Iranian helicopter are not visible in the picture in the tweet. Likewise, there should be more white color. But in the photo in the X post, most of the helicopter is dark blue.

In confusing news situations or conflicts, many photos or videos are shared that allegedly show the current situation. But often they are misleading, show older situations or are generated or manipulated by AI. In this case the picture of the helicopter is old. And the claim that laser weapons caused the helicopter crash is false.

Edited by: Carla Bleiker


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Posted by on May 23 2024. Filed under International, National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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