A US fighter aircraft shot down an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle last month that had intruded into Iraqi airspace and had spent more than one hour well inside Iraqi territory, Multinational Force-Iraq officials confirmed yesterday, according to several press reports. The incident is said to have occurred Feb. 25, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The UAV is believed to have been an Iranian-made Ababil 3 model. Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog broke this story March 12, citing US military officials in Baghdad, but initially could get no MNF-I confirmation, nor a denial. Then yesterday, MNF-I did confirm the incident to Danger Room as well as other press outlets. Two coalition aircraft were reportedly directed to visually identify the UAV after it was detected inside the Iraqi border. They tracked it for more than one hour before engaging it. The Iraqi Defense Ministry also acknowledged the incident yesterday. While its representative portrayed the Iranian incursion as a mistake, an MNF-I official said it “was not an accident on the part of the Iranians.” (For more, read yesterday’s AFPS report and Reuters’s report.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.