As tensions continue to run high in the volatile Middle Eastern Region, some defense officials have informed the media that the Houthi militant group, backed by Iran, shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper Drone off the coast of Yemen.
The US defense official told the media that the MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down by the militants while it was flying over international waters and in international airspace. Yemen is bounded to the south by the Gulf of Aden and to the west by the Red Sea.
The shootout of the MQ-9 Reaper Drone has since been acknowledged by a Houthi spokesperson who claimed that the drone was flying in Yemeni airspace when it was shot down. The US Central Command is reportedly investigating the incident, which may have cost a $32 million loss to the United States.
The Houthi group is yet to share more details about how the drone was shot down, but a video has been published that shows the moment the Reaper was shot down by an air defense system belonging to the Houthis.
There has been no word from either side about the status of the drone at the time of writing this report. EurAsian Times could not independently verify whether the drone suffered some damage or was totally destroyed in the attack.
🚨🇾🇪🇺🇸 FOOTAGE of Yemeni air defense TAKING DOWN a United States MQ9 reaper drone.
— Jackson Hinkle 🇺🇸 (@jacksonhinklle) November 8, 2023
Notably, the shootout of the MQ-9 Reaper considered a prized possession of the US military, comes at a time when the US has expanded its presence in the Middle East. The US transferred military assets, including aircraft carriers, Marines, and support ships, to the Middle East and deployed troops on board military ships in the Red Sea, which separates Israel and Yemen.
The United States maintains that its military expansion in the region has been aimed at preventing a region-wide escalation, with Iran and its proxies warning of attacks if Israel did not stop bombing Gaza.
However, with regional militant groups accusing the US of supplying the IDF and encouraging the carnage, the attacks against US forces in the Middle East have also recorded a dramatic rise. In the last three weeks, there have been more than forty distinct strikes on American military facilities in Syria and Iraq, according to the Pentagon.
The shootdown of the Reaper comes three weeks after the USS Carney, a warship of the US Navy, successfully intercepted several missiles and drone strikes fired by the Houthis during their northward journey over the Red Sea. Over nine hours, the ship reportedly shot down four cruise missiles and fifteen drones. At the time, military analysts noted that their trajectory indicated that the projectiles were aimed towards Israel.
As of now, it remains unclear whether the MQ-9 Reaper was armed as the drone can carry a variety of armaments, including missiles and laser-guided bombs.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, recently said, “We know that the Houthis have the ability, by the missiles, that they’re employing to range targets in Israel.” There is currently no information about which missile was used by the Houthis to bring the Reaper down into the Red Sea.
BREAKING: President Biden has launched airstrikes in eastern Syria after US troops were attacked 42 times since mid-October
The strikes were conducted by two F-15s on a weapons storage facility.
The announcement was made by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
"Today, at… pic.twitter.com/4nv9ChrYW5
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) November 8, 2023
Intriguingly, the drone attack happened on the same day that President Joe Biden gave the order for two F-15 fighter aircraft from the United States to launch an airstrike on a weapons storage facility used by rebel and military organizations in Iran in eastern Syria. A similar strike was conducted by the US on October 26.
This hasn’t been the best year for the US MQ-9 Reaper drones, with multiple attacks reported on the UAVs and at least one incident when a Reaper drone was downed by an adversary in another corner of the world.
Bad Year For MQ-9 Reaper Drones
MQ-9 Reaper drone is outfitted with long-range radar and can offer commanders a full-motion view of the sea below. These aircraft have carried out various missions abroad, including close air support, search and rescue, maritime interdiction, strike coordination, reconnaissance, and surveillance.
However, when the MQ-9 was on one such surveillance mission over the Black Sea, it was confronted by two Su-27 Flankers of the Russian Air Force in March this year. At the time, the US military announced that the Reaper was first attacked by the Su-27, which sprayed jet fuel on the drone in an attempt to destabilize it.
Later, it noted that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet broke the propeller on an MQ-9 Reaper drone, causing it to crash into the Black Sea. On its part, Russia initially denied any direct contact between its aircraft and the drone and said that the MQ-9 Reaper drone was flying with its transponders turned off and crashed after a “sharp maneuver.”
However, a video was subsequently released by the US military which showed the engagement between the Su-27 and the MQ-9 Reaper drone. The entire incident was captured on the drone’s revolving electro-optical system, which was angled backward in the direction of the push-propeller and revealed the Su-27 approaching from the back.
BREAKING- US Releases Footage of Clash between Russian Su-27 Fighter Jet and the US MQ-9 Reaper Drone.
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) March 16, 2023
The shootdown of the drone over the Black Sea had a direct impact on US missions in the region. In the aftermath of the incident, both Russian and American officials claimed that the downing of the drone ended up reducing American airborne surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the region since the latter’s aircraft and drones were forced to fly farther south and away from Ukraine’s coast.
Although the US has frequently used the drone to “keep an eye out,” that specific incident was a massive blow to its military.
The MQ-9 has been under threat for almost a year now. After the March incident triggered a furor and ignited the threat of an escalation between the two sides, a US official disclosed in May that a Russian surface-to-air missile had narrowly missed striking an American MQ-9 Reaper drone in Syria in November 2022.
The drone was damaged as the missile exploded about 40 feet from it, but it was able to return to its base and land without incident.
However, despite these engagements with Russia, the MQ-9 Reapers have refused to budge. Earlier this year, Russian forces complained that the UAV frequently approached its positions in Syria.
A high-ranking Russian official said that the Russian Armed Forces had observed ten violations of the flight of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) belonging to the “international anti-terrorist coalition” led by the US during the day in Syria.
On its part, the US CENTCOM complained that Russian fighter jets were engaging in dangerous interceptions of their MQ-9 Reapers and harassing them. It emphasized that the Russian jets were violating established norms and protocols by deploying numerous parachute flares in the path of the drones, resulting in the need for evasive maneuvers by the US aircraft.
Military experts and analysts have repeatedly warned that if the Russian air defense systems downed one of these drones once again, it could lead to gross miscalculation and escalation between the two sides.