How the Pentagon Nickel-and-Dimed Its Way Into Losing a Drone (excerpt)
(Source: Defense One; posted June 20, 2019)
Like the U-2 spy plane, Global Hawk is designed to fly at high altitude, beyond the range of air-defense missiles, but like the U-2 it was shot down, according to Iran by a an Iranian-made Khordad-3 air defense system. (Twitter photo)
Wednesday’s downing of a U.S. drone by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard exposes a weakness in U.S. operations. The United States has some of the world’s most sophisticated drones for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. But they were designed for past wars, for use against insurgent forces such as ISIS or the Taliban that cannot track and destroy high-flying aircraft. Iran and other potential adversaries, by contrast, have radar and missiles that can turn some of the U.S. military’s most important drones into expensive, conspicuous targets.
Officials with U.S. Central Command confirmed Thursday morning that the Iranian military had shot down a BAMS-D RQ-4A Global Hawk, an incredibly sophisticated drone that can carry a suite of sensitive and powerful sensors up to 55,000 feet on missions that can last 24 hours.
At $130 million apiece (or $220 million, including research and development costs), it’s more expensive than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which costs around $90 million apiece these days. Its single turbofan pushes it to speeds around 400 miles per hour on a 131-foot wingspan that affords long dwell times — and is easily spotted on radar.
On Thursday, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps officials declared that they had shot down the drone with an Iranian-made Khordad-3 air defense system. Given the RQ-4’s usual operating altitude, the interceptor missile was likely a TALASH 2B.
A representative from U.S. Central Command declined to confirm the missile type, but did say that Iran did not use its most sophisticated air-defense system, the Russian-made S-300, in the engagement.
In other words, the U.S. military lost one of its most advanced intelligence drones to a mediocre radar and missile. That reflects a lack of suitable next-generation drones to carry out important intelligence and reconnaissance missions against adversaries with actual air defenses. (end of excerpt)
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U.S. Air Forces Central Command Statement on the Shoot Down of a U.S. RQ-4
(Source: U.S. Air Forces Central Command; issued June 20, 2019)
"A U.S. Navy RQ-4 was flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz on a surveillance mission in international airspace in the vicinity of recent IRGC maritime attacks when it was shot down by an IRGC surface to air missile fired from a location in the vicinity of Goruk, Iran.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset that had not violated Iranian airspace at any time during its mission.
“This attack is an attempt to disrupt our ability to monitor the area following recent threats to international shipping and free flow of commerce.
“Iranian reports that this aircraft was shot down over Iran are categorically false. The aircraft was over the Strait of Hormuz and fell into international waters.
“At the time of the intercept, the RQ-4 was operating at high-altitude approximately 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast.
“This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, UAE, and Muscat Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians."
-- Attributable to Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
U.S. Central Command Statement: Iranians Shoot Down U.S. Drone
(Source: U.S. Central Command; issued June 20, 2019)
TAMPA, Fla. --- “U.S. Central Command can confirm that a U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.
“The BAMS-D is a RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions."
-- Attributable to Navy Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman