A US MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down on Wednesday off the coast of Yemen, as claimed by a spokesperson for the Houthis in Yemen.
The drone was operating in international airspace over international waters and the incident is being assessed by the US Central Command.
This is the third time that the Iranian-backed Houthis have shot down an MQ-9; the most recent incident was in 2019. The Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014, and have since been involved in a devastating civil war against the internationally recognized government of Yemen.
The downing of the drone comes amidst rising tensions in the region, as the Houthis announced launching missile and drone attacks against Israel. Last month, a US Navy destroyer in the Red Sea shot down missiles from Yemen potentially headed toward Israel.
The Pentagon recently confirmed that it was flying MQ-9s over Gaza to gather intelligence for hostage recovery efforts.
The primary role of the MQ-9 is to collect intelligence, and secondarily to execute dynamic targets. It has the ability to loiter for a long time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communication suite, and precision weapons which makes it a unique asset for striking, coordinating, and gathering information on high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.
The MQ-9 can also perform other missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, close air support, precision strike, convoy and raid overwatch, route clearance, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9’s capabilities make it exceptionally qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives.