It is the first time the British military has downed another enemy aircraft since the Falklands War nearly 40 years ago.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the drone “posed a threat” to coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group in southern Syria.
It did not say which hostile group was operating the drone.
According to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace the strike was “an impressive demonstration of the RAF’s ability to take out hostile targets in the air”.
Two Typhoon jets were on a routine patrol from their base in Cyprus when they were asked to investigate the small drone on Tuesday.
Despite the small size of the drone making it a very challenging target, it was successfully shot down using an Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM) and the threat eliminated – a tribute to the skill and professionalism of RAF pilots.
The incident took place near the Al Tanf coalition military base, close to the border with Iraq.
An ASRAAM missile, which costs around £200,000 and has a range of 12-15 miles, flies at supersonic speed – faster than the speed of sound. The ASRAAM is in service with the RAF as its Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon. The missile accepts target information via the aircraft sensors, such as the radar or helmet mounted sight but can also act as an autonomous infrared search and track system.
Defence sources told the BBC this engagement would likely have been a relatively close encounter – possibly with the aircrew in line of sight of the much slower flying drone.
This unprecedented event was the first operational air-to-air engagement conducted by an RAF Typhoon, and also the first RAF air-to-air missile firing during Operation SHADER – the UK’s contribution to the Global Coalition against Daesh.
According to the MoD, this comes several weeks after the RAF successfully eliminated a known terrorist threat in Syria using a remotely piloted Reaper armed with Hellfire missiles.
The Global Coalition against Daesh has liberated eight million people across 110,000 sq km from Daesh tyranny in Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, Daesh is still a threat.
Photo credit: Crown Copyright / MBDA
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