According to U.S. Central Command, whose area of operation includes the Middle East, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down over Yemen on Sunday, confirming the authenticity of a number of videos that have surfaced on the internet in recent days.
We assess that an MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was shot down in western Yemen on Oct. 1, 2017,” Maj. Earl Brown, a spokesman for the command, said in an email. “The details on the specifics of the mission are not releasable for [operational security reasons] and we don’t want to get ahead of any investigation.”
Videos began surfacing on YouTube and social media platforms like Twitter on Sunday evening that appear to show Yemen’s Houthi forces firing a surface to air missile at the drone as it loiters overhead. The missile intercepts the drone, and subsequent footage shows the 36 foot long, 66 foot wide aircraft spiraling to the ground.
According to descriptions on the footage, the intercept occurred at around 11 am local time in the Jadar area on the northern outskirts of Sanaa. According to reports in both the Houthi-controlled media outlet SABA as well as Reuters, the remains of the drone were then loaded into a Toyota pickup truck.
In this video, you can see the initial launch of the surface to air missile, as well as the high altitude intercept.
This footage shows the MQ-9 Reaper drone spiraling to the ground after being hit.
In this footage, you can see Houthi rebels gathered around the wreckage, preparing to load it into a nearby vehicle.
The Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen maintains control over the majority of the northern portion of the nation, where they are embroiled in a fight with a U.S. supported and Saudi led coalition intent on restoring the internationally recognized national president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The United States provides the coalition with intelligence as well as weapons, and has been known to conduct anti-terror operations within the nation.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone is capable of conducting reconnaissance as well as offensive operations thanks to its ability to carry a varied loadout that includes AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Thanks to its long duration flight time and advanced on board targeting suite, it has proven effective for both observation and close air support tasks. The MQ-9 is a larger, more powerful iteration of the historic workhorse MQ-1 Predator employed by the United States military for years.
The MQ-9 Predator is a non-stealth aircraft with a cruising speed of about 230 miles per hour. Although its operational ceiling of 50,000 feet allows the Predator to operate above the maximum range of many shoulder fired surface to air missiles, there are a number of platforms capable of engaging the MQ-9 Reaper, particularly when loitering high above a combat zone.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force