Airmen perform a pre-flight check on a MQ-9 Reaper at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Jan. 16, 2019. Air Force photo by SSgt. Jeremy Mosier?
One American MQ-9 was shot down by a Houthi SA-6 surface-to-air missile over Yemen on June 6, and another was targeted by an Iranian SAM in the Gulf of Oman shortly after the attack on two ships there, US Central Command said June 16.
The altitude in the June 6 attack “indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability,” which CENTCOM attributes to Iranian assistance, said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, the command’s spokesman.
The second attack—the morning of June 13–was not successful, Brown said.
In that incident, a modified Iranian SA-7 attempted to down an MQ-9, “to disrupt surveillance of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps attack on the motor transport Kokuka Courageous,” one of two tanker ships attacked in the Gulf of Oman that day, Brown said. The Reaper had just arrived at the other tanker, the Altair, which was on fire. The closest the missile came to the Reaper was about a kilometer, Brown added.
Iran has denied involvement in the attacks on the oil tankers, though President Donald Trump told Fox News on June 14, “Iran did do it,” Reuters reported.
CENTCOM said June 13 that a US aircraft saw an IRGC patrol boat and several fast attack craft near the Altair after the explosions, and that an IRGC patrol boat “was observed and recorded” removing what they say was an unexploded mine from the side of one of the ships.