USAF Admits MQ-1 Shot Down Over Syria

July 1, 2015—A June 26 Air Force release confirmed an MQ-1 Predator was shot down over Syria in March, marking the first reported RPA loss during Operation Inherent Resolve and possibly the first time Syrian air defenses have been activated against coalition aircraft since the operation began.

Syrian state media previously reported the remotely piloted aircraft was shot down by air defense units near Latakia, an area in Syria dominated by Bashar Assad’s government forces, but the Pentagon has maintained the aircraft lost contact with its operators, saying at the time there was “no information to corroborate press reports” that the aircraft was shot down.

On June 5, Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, then-Air Forces Central Command boss, told reporters that “so far” Syria has “chosen not to engage coalition aircraft, which I think is very wise of them.”

The USAF release originally said a “deployed MQ-1 was shot down over Syria” in March, prompting “intelligence officials to collaborate online and in Nevada with subject matter experts to develop a decisive threat warning that could integrate existing technology.” The release, which was updated on June 30 and no longer includes the information, did not say who shot down the RPA.

AFCENT spokesman CMSgt. John Tway told Air Force Magazine, “I have no additional info on this incident,” noting he forwarded our query on to US European Command after consulting with US Central Command. EUCOM spokesman Lt. Col. David Westover confirmed the RPA belonged to the command and originated from the EUCOM area of responsibility, though he declined to provide specifics.

Westover said EUCOM boss Gen. Philip Breedlove “immediately … directed an investigation” into the incident in March and has since “endorsed the investigating officer’s classified report, findings, and recommendations … Primarily at fault are errors generated from inconsistencies in command and control guidance and mission approval processes. Active steps are being taken to align all applicable guidance and processes in order to prevent any re?ccurrence,” including “reviewing all published guidance, orders, and approval matrices; as well as comprehensive mission rehearsals before future flight operations.”

It’s not clear whether the aircraft was armed at the time or what mission it was on.

According to Incirlik Air Base’s official website, unarmed MQ-1 Predators deployed there in 2012 to “support Turkey’s counter terrorism efforts and to enhance regional stability.” Incirlik is likely the only EUCOM base from which a Predator would be able to overfly parts of Syria, given the RPA’s range. The Turkish government has agreed to allow “moderate” Syrian opposition fighters to train on its soil, but still forbids airstrikes from its territory.