The U.S. says it was shot down in international airspace.
A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed in international airspace near Yemen on Wednesday, according to a U.S. defense official.
“We can confirm that a U.S. military MQ-9 remotely-piloted aircraft was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Houthi forces,” the official said according to ABC news.
On June 20, 2019, Iran’s integrated system of Air Defense Forces shot down a United States RQ-4A Global Hawk BAMS-D surveillance drone with a surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran and the U.S. differ on where the incident actually occurred.Iranian officials said that the drone violated their airspace, while U.S. officials responded that the drone was in international airspace.
According to the U.S., the drone involved in the June 2019 incident was one of four Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator (BAMS-D) RQ-4 Global Hawks built as predecessors to the MQ-4C Triton, and operated by the U.S. Navy. The drone is believed to be the largest drone in the entire fleet of the U.S military. An MQ-4C Triton has a price of $182 million (including R&D costs).
The BAMS-D flies at high altitude, but is not a stealth aircraft. It does not carry munitions.
Following the incident, President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran had made a “big mistake”. The Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines of a “potential for miscalculation or misidentification” as numerous flights began to be diverted from the Tehran flight information region. The United States also requested a June 24 closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting to address the regional tensions with Iran, according to diplomats. Several hours later, The New York Times, citing “multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations,” reported that Trump had ordered a retaliatory military strike on several Iranian radar and missile sites, but then withdrew the order. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and CIA Director Gina Haspel were reportedly in favor of a military response and objected to the reversal.
Vice President Mike Pence initially supported limited military strikes but also agreed with the president’s decision to halt them.
Trump later confirmed that he aborted an attack, tweeting that he was in “no hurry” to attack Iran and halted his order “10 minutes before the strike” because it was only then that he learned that Iranian casualties were estimated to be 150 killed, which he said was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone”. In an interview with NBC News, he expounded on his decision-making process, saying that though the strike package was “cocked and loaded”, he had not given final approval to the operation and added that no warplanes had taken off before the reversal. He reiterated that he did not want war with Iran and was open to unconditional talks with Iranian leadership, but affirmed that they “can’t have nuclear weapons” and warned that in the event of a conflict there would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before”.
A June 22 article in The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified administration officials close to internal deliberations, reported that, privately, Trump bemoaned the cost of the downed drone – around $130 million (not including R&D) – but said that the loss would pale in comparison in the eyes of U.S. citizens to potential Iranian casualties. One source said the collateral damage estimate of 150 killed came from the White House, not the Pentagon, which two others said guessed lower. The WSJ report also stated that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford cautioned against a strike, significantly influencing Trump’s decision.
On June 22, it was reported that Trump had approved cyberattacks intended to disable IRGC computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches the day of the shoot-down. The cyber strikes were in development “for weeks if not months” and handled by U.S. Cyber Command in conjunction with U.S. Central Command. It represented the first offensive show of force since Cyber Command was elevated to a full combatant command in May 2018. Also on June 22, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to U.S. industries that Iran was stepping up cyberattacks of critical industries — particularly oil, gas, and other energy sectors — and government agencies, and have the potential to disrupt or destroy systems.
On June 24, Trump announced new targeted sanctions in Executive Order 13876 against Iranian and Revolutionary Guard Corps leadership, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his office. IRGC targets included Naval commander Alireza Tangsiri, Aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and Ground commander Mohammad Pakpour. The sanctions also targeted the commanders of the IRGC Navy’s five districts: Abbas Gholamshahi, Ramezan Zirahi, Yadollah Badin, Mansour Ravankar, and Ali Ozma’i. The sanctions largely froze any assets under U.S. jurisdiction, blocked the targeted leaders from dollar-denominated transactions, and barred international banks from moving money on their behalf. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would block “literally billions” in assets and that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would also be sanctioned within the week.Zarif was later sanctioned on July 31.