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US: Iran Shoots Down Global Hawk; Second Drone Down This Month « Breaking Defense

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Global Hawk reconnaissance drone

WASHINGTON: Iranian forces shot down a RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz Wednesday night, US officials confirm. This is the latest, and most significant, of a series of attacks in the region that have inflamed tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman said in a statement today.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement earlier in the day that the aircraft had entered its airspace and was brought down by its air force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Urban said. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The RQ-4 is the Navy’s most advanced high-altitude unmanned aircraft, and is tasked with long-distance missions where it can observe a wide swath of territory, peeking over international borders from well inside international airspace.

There has been no independent confirmation that the drone was either inside Iranian airspace, or over international waters.

The incident comes days after the Pentagon confirmed that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels tried to shoot down a US MQ-4 Reaper drone, and Iranian forces also fired a surface-to-air missile at another Reaper, without success.

The June 6 downing was the result of the Houthis firing a Russian-made SA-6 ground-to-air missile which “indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability,” according to CENTCOM.

The June 13 miss was a modified Iranian SA-7 missile. It is unclear what missile was used in Wednesday’s attack, but one thing is certain: the missile Iran probably fired certainly cost much less than the $130 million Global Hawk.

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