The United States lost two of their top-end drones in an apparent collision over Idlib, Syria according to officials within the Department of Defense.

The two drones may have been targeted by militants on the ground.

Several MQ-9 Reaper drones have been sighted over the Idlib area. Last week one may have been used to kill an Uzbek military trainer of the terrorist group Hurras al-Din, which is linked to al-Qaeda. 

Militant groups allied with Turkey, which opposes the Assad regime in Syria, have claimed to have shot down two drones, belonging to the Russians. However, the pictures and videos that were posted on social media appear to show an MQ-9.

The MQ-9 Reaper is the United States’ top-end unmanned aerial vehicle that can be utilized as surveillance, intelligence-gathering, or a hunter-killer drone that has been extensively used by military and CIA in the Middle East.

Turkey has supplied its troops and the militias affiliated with it with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). If the Turks or their militias were the ones that engaged the American drones, they may have done so mistaking them for Russian ones, as the U.S. wouldn’t be targeting either the Turks or their militias. 

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Twitter was filled with images of burning aircraft crashing to the ground. 

The MQ-9 cruises at about 200 mph with a top speed of only 300 mph. It has a range of 1,200 miles and external pods allow it to carry a mix of AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles or 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs, and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Each Reaper costs an estimated $19 million. 

Reapers have been shot down in the past. Last year, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said that the Iranian-led Houthi rebels in Yemen shot down an MQ-9 with an SA-6, surface-to-air missile.

On August 14, Radio Fresh FM, an independent radio station posted a set of pictures reportedly of three different MQ-9s over Idlib. Three days later they posted more pictures showing at least two different Reapers. 

The Uzbek trainer for al-Qaeda, Abu Yahya al-Uzbeki, was killed in a drone strike when his Hyundai SUV was hit with what appears to have been an AGM-114R9X while he was driving in Idlib. The specially-designed RX9 variant of the Hellfire is known as the “ninja bomb” and “the flying Ginsu,” as it has no explosive warhead. It instead uses a kinetic warhead that deploys a halo of six blades that deploy moments before impact, thereby reducing the collateral damage of an explosive warhead. It has been described as a 100-lb flying switchblade. The weapon has been in use for some time but its existence had been kept under wraps by DOD and CIA. 

The outcome of an RX9 strike.