An MQ-1 Predator crashed in Syria. According to Syria state media it was shot down by Syrian air defenses.
The U.S. lost contact with an unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone on Mar. 17.
Whilst Pentagon officials could not confirm whether the aircraft was shot down or crashed because of a failure, the Syrian SANA news agency reported that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down in the Latakia province by the Syrian air defenses.
Indeed, images of the wreckage of an aerial vehicle were later posted on social media: provided the photographs were really taken at the crash site, they show parts of the UAV (including a wheel of the landing gear) along with parts of what seems to be the body an S-125 Neva/Pechora (NATO reporting name SA-3 Goa) Soviet surface-to-air missile system: this may confirm the version of the Syrian State Media according to which the MQ-1, most probably operating out of Incirlik airbase, in Turkey, was shot down.
The event is interesting for several reasons:
1) it proves U.S. drones perform ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in a region (on the western coast of Syria) currently not interested by the air strikes targeting the Islamic State. Monitoring jihadist activities in the area? Keeping an eye on the fightings between rebels and loyalist forces? Monitoring shipments that reach Syria via sea?
2) if the shot down is confirmed, it proves that Assad fires back and Syrian air defenses can pose a threat to manned and unmanned aircraft that operate inside the Syrian airspace.
RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft in BACN configuration is supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
The U.S. Air Force has not released much details about the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft and its involvement in the air war on ISIS.
We just know that the gigantic UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is taking part to Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led operation against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq from an undisclosed location in southwest Asia that, based on photographs and other reports, should be Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE.
However, the Air Force has recently released a tidbit about its Global Hawk aircraft 2019 (or “A2019″), an RQ-4 Block 20 unmanned system which has recently surpassed the 10,000 flying hours. Interestingly, the milestone was achieved on Mar. 7, shortly after dawn, during a 30.5-hour mission over Syria or Iraq: almost a record considered that the record for the longest Block 20, held by the same A2019 aircraft, is 31.5 hours.
Interestingly, “A2019″ was the first block 20 and first RQ-4B model to be deployed in the region on Oct. 16, 2010. It carries the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload, which replaces the imagery sensor package normally installed in the aircraft, and its role is to support ground ops by relaying communications between people and aircraft as well as enabling airstrikes on the Islamic State militants.
Three RQ-4B have been converted into EQ-4 and carry the BACN payload instead of the sensors fielded with imagery intelligence (IMINT) sensors.
“It is primarily a data and communications bridging node. It can support multiple bridges simultaneously across multiple radio types. We like to call it ‘Wi-fi in the sky'” said Lt. Col. Anthony, launch and recovery element operations supervisor in a post on the Air Force website.
While EQ-4 performs its communication relay mission, manned and unmanned aircraft provide ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) support to Operation Inherent Resolve by gathering information about the security situation on the ground.
Although the article does not mention it, it would be interesting to know which ground or air assets, require to be interconnect with a BACN platform. Most probably, the F-22 or the B-1s, with other planes.
In fact, the U.S. armed forces use various datalink systems to exchange tactical information, and many are not capable of working together. For instance, a U.S. Air Force F-15 can use its Link-16 system to exchange targeting data with a U.S. Navy F/A-18E. However, the Super Hornet could not exchange information with a USAF B-1 bombers. The advanced F-22 can exchange information with other Raptors, but cannot exchange information on legacy datalinks such as Link-16.
Hence the need for a “flying gateway” as the EQ-4.
According to a senior Iranian commander, several reconnaissance aircraft, including some U-2 spyplanes, have been frighten away by Tehran air defenses as they flew close to Iran’s airspace.
On Dec. 22, General Shahrokh Shahram, Lieutenant Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base said that Iran’s air defense units scared away several surveillance planes, including some U.S. U-2 Dragon Lady spyplanes that were flying near the borders of Tehran FIR (Flight Information Region).
“During yesterday and today [Dec. 21 and 22] warnings have been issued to several reconnaissance aircraft of the trans-regional states which were flying near the FIR (Flight Information Region) of the country’s borders[..] Some of these were U-2 spyplanes” Shahram said according to FNA (Fars News Agency).
FNA speculates the aircraft may be spying on Iran ahead of “Mohammad Rasoulallah (PBUH)” drills, scheduled between Dec. 25 and 31.
Earlier this month an Iranian top officer, Air Defense Commander Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli, said that a U-2 “stealth aircraft” flying close to Iran’s airspace was tracked, warned and somehow forced to make a U-turn by Iranian missile systems, “even though this type of plane can’t be picked up by any radar screen.”
Coated with RAM (Radar Absorbing Material) and designed to be hard to detect on radars, the U.S. Air Force U-2 is not considered a real stealth aircraft, even if it embeds radar-evading features.
U.S. Air Force U-2s have been operating in the region for years departing from Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE.
Indeed, although it may struggle against cruise missiles and modern stealth bombers, especially if accompanied by significant EW (Electronic Warfare) support, Iran’s air defense system, with its batteries along the coast (one of those is Bandar Abbas in the south of the country) can pose a significant threat to several aircraft, including U-2s or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) flying over the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Iran reportedly shot down an Israeli drone near Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran last August. Finding the small drone is like finding needle in a haystack General Esmayeeli said addressing a students gathering on Dec. 7. “We should take good care not to harm passenger planes when identifying and shooting down such drones,” he said.
A classified Pentagon report obtained by The New York Times in 2012 claimed that Iranian SAM batteries had fired at civil planes at least three times between 2007 and 2008.
Some of our readers may have seen it already. For all the others, here is a funny video filmed during the press conference held in Portugal last April to showcase the new coastal surveillance UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) of the Portuguese Navy.
The video speaks for itself: just like a large paper airplane, the hand-launched drone immediately plummets and crashes into the water.
The mishap occurred while Portugal’s Defense Minister José Pedro Aguiar-Branco was visiting a naval base near Lisbon and, according to local reports, was caused by a “launch sequence” affected by some part of the airframe clipping the special operator who was launching it.
Fortunately, a second attempt to launch the drone was successful. Too late to save the reputation of the small UAS…
All you need to know about the Iranian involvement in the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.
Al Jazeera footage aired a few days ago exposed an IRIAF F-4 Phantom performing an air strike on ISIS positions in Iraq.
The news of a cooperation between Washington and Tehran, later confirmed by the Pentagon, quickly spread across the world and images of the Iranian Phantoms in the colors of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force have appeared on worldwide media outlets. But the Iranian contribution to the air war on ISIS includes other assets.
An insight into the IRIAF missions in Iraq was provided by Iranian defense expert Babak Taghvaee, a very well known author of several publications about the Iranian air forces and a regular contributor to some of the most read aviation magazines.
Taghvaee summed up the key features about the Iranian air raids in an email to The Aviationist.
– 18th to 20th November, several interdiction sorties were performed by the 2nd and 4th TFB’s F-5s in the Diyala province.
– Between Nov. 20t and Nov. 23 November, the RF-4Es of IRIAF and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) of the IRGC-ASF (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Aerospace Force) performed recce sorties over Jalula and Saadia.
– Between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30, the F-4Es of the 3rd TFB and 9th TFB performed CAS (Close Air Support) sorties for the Kurdish Peshmerga, Badr militia and Iraqi SpecOps.
– On Dec. 1 and 2, four Su-24MKs performed several combat air patrols and on-call CAS sorties deep inside Iraqi borders.
– On 29th and 30th November, the indigenous Sattar 4 LGBs and GBU-78/A Ghased TV guided bombs were used against the Daesh’s strongholds and heavy trucks successfully for first time in battle zone.
In conclusion, the Kurds and Iraqis retrieved the cities of Jalula and Saadia under fire support of IRIAF.
“The Americans had full coordination with Iranians during the combat sorties of IRIAF,” Taghvee highlighted.
Indeed, although it was theoretically possible for Iranian planes to fly inside Iraq without any coordination with other air forces operating in the same airspace, it would have been suicidal. For proper deconfliction of tactical assets, prior coordination and air space management and control are required.
There are several aircraft performing Airspace Control, Airborne Early Warning over Syria and Iraq: no plane could fly undetected in the area.
Anyway, we can’t but notice that, when called into action, the Iranian air force can conduct real combat missions in a low lethality scenario with a variety of (ageing) tactical planes and UAVs: facts that could fuel a much more credible propaganda than that made of some weird or totally fake claims we have commented in the past.