Drones

Iranian SAM shoots down U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton Drone in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz

The MQ-4C Triton shoot-down is sure to trigger serious discussions within the Trump administration about how to respond to a direct attack on a U.S. military asset.

On Jun. 20, 2019 in a major provocation Iran shot down an unarmed and unmanned U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton drone while it was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official told ABC News.

The incident, which goes beyond recent attacks in the Middle East that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, is sure to trigger serious discussions within the Trump administration about how to respond to a direct attack on a U.S. military asset.

A U.S. official said that the U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile while the reconnaissance drone was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday.

Earlier, Iranian state media had quoted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as saying it had downed a Global Hawk drone when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district north of the Strait of Hormuz.

The MQ-4C Triton is an unarmed surveillance aircraft powered by a jet engine, which is capable of operating at altitudes as high as 60,000 feet.

The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system (UAS) provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions.

Based on the proven Global Hawk UAS, Triton’s autonomous operations are supported by land-based command and control mission planners and sensor operators. The Triton is equipped with a unique and robust mission sensor suite that provides 360-degree coverage on all sensors, providing unprecedented maritime domain awareness for the U.S. Navy.

Triton also incorporates a reinforced airframe, for increased internal payload, and wing for hail, bird strike, and gust load protection, along with de-icing and lightning protection systems. These features allow the aircraft to descend and ascend through harsh maritime weather environments to gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea when needed.

Noteworthy the incident is not the first time in recent days that Iran has targeted an American drone off its coast.

On Jun. 13 in fact, Iran attempted to shoot down an MQ-9 Reaper that was surveilling the attack on one of two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. has blamed Iran for being responsible for the attacks on the two tankers — a claim Iran has denied.

“According to our assessment, a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9, at 6:45 a.m. local time, June 13, over the Gulf of Oman, to disrupt surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” CENTCOM spokesperson Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement to ABC News on Saturday.

“Subsequent analysis indicates that this was a likely attempt to shoot down or otherwise disrupt the MQ-9 surveillance of the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” Brown said.

In early May, the Pentagon rushed the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a B-52 bomber task force to the Middle East to deter possible attacks by Iran or Iranian-backed groups on U.S. forces and U.S. interests in the region.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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