Global Hawk Shootdown

The simmering US-Iranian tensions ticked up another notch on 20-JUNE-19 when a US Global Hawk UAV was engaged and shot down over international waters near the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface to air missile battery near Goruk, Iran.

The Global Hawk, which has been identified as a US Navy aircraft, was specified at one point as an MQ-4C Triton variant, but it is now believed that it was in fact a former USAF RQ-4 model that was transferred to the USN in preparation for operations with the Triton. MQ-4Cs have not yet been deployed overseas, and it has been reported that one of the former USAF vehicles had been sent to the Gulf region in the last several days.

Iran claimed that the UAV had been operating over Iranian airspace, while the US maintains that the aircraft was performing a standoff mission in international airspace; video has been released by the US showing the smoke plume from the descending Global Hawk. Although the RQ-4 can operate at altitudes above 50,000 feet, it is also non-stealthy and subsonic, making it a poor choice to penetrate defended airspace. And given the likely mission to monitor the strait and immediate environs, there would be little point in an overflight.

Iranian footage shows a Raad air defense system launching a missile, apparently at the Global Hawk. This system can engage targets above 70,000 feet an altitude, bringing the RQ-4 into its envelope.


Update 12:41 AM EST 21-JUNE

Both Newsweek and the New York Times are reporting that  a retaliatory strike on Iran was launched but called off at the last minute. The US apparently believes that the Global Hawk was destroyed by a Russian-supplied S-125 (NATO SA-3 Goa) SAM, and that at least one such battery was to have been hit.

 

Bibliography:

“First US Navy MQ-4C Completes Maiden Flight” Air Forces Monthly July 2013  p.17