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A senior U.S. defense official confirmed Wednesday that the Iranian-backed Houthis shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone near the Yemeni Coast.
“We can confirm that a U.S. military MQ-9 remotely-piloted aircraft was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Houthi forces,” the senior official told Fox News.
The senior U.S. defense official added that the aircraft was shot down while in international airspace over international waters off the coast of Yemen, and that U.S. Central Command officials are currently assessing the incident.
The MQ-9 was reportedly conducting surveillance over Yemen when a Houthi militia backed by Iran, fired at and shot down the $30 million drone Wednesday.
Video of the strike was released by the Houthis, showing U.S. defense officials say was likely taken down with a SA-6 surface-to-air missile.
The last time a drone of this type was shot down by Houthi fighters was June 6, 2019. The Biden administration removed the Houthis from the U.S. list of terrorist groups in 2021.
MQ-9 Reapers drones are primarily used to collect intelligence, but have the ability to be armed with up to eight laser-guided hellfire missiles, according to the U.S. Air Force.
The drone is equipped with sophisticated high-powered cameras, sensors and radars to collect intelligence. The cameras themselves have the ability to detect heat and operated with little to no light.
The drones can run surveillance for several hours at over 25,000 feet; perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting and time-sensitive targets; and operate remotely with two-crew members — one pilot to control the drone and a crew member to operate sensors and guide weapons.
They also have the ability to remain in the air for more than 27 hours.
With a wingspan of 66 feet, length of 36 feet, height of 12.5 feet, and weight of 4,900 pounds empty, the MQ-9 Reaper drone can reach a maximum speed of 276 miles per hour with a range of 1,150 miles.