Why has Washington acknowledged loss of unknown drone in Somalia but has not admitted Predator crash in Turkey?

May 30 2013 - 2 Comments

As already explained, on May 29 Pentagon acknowledged the loss of a scarcely known Camcopter drone in Somalia whose debris had been collected and shown all around the world by the Al-Shabaab group.

Interestingly, the mysterious drone was identified as a Schiebel Camcopter S-100 a tiny helicopter drone whose maximum take off weight is 200 kg.

It is at least odd, that Washington admitted the loss as the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was not known (at least publicly) to be operated by any U.S. force or agency. Unless the drone carried some unit markings or national roundel, it is quite unlikely that anybody could tie the small drone crashed in Somalia with an American asset.

Unless they are forced to do that (as happened when the stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone was captured by Iran in December 2011), the DoD is rarely willing to disclose its involvement in overseas clandestine missions.

Schiebel_CAMCOPTER_S-100

Image credit: Wiki

For instance, neither Pentagon nor U.S. Air Force have ever admitted the downing of a Predator by the Kurdish rebels.

As we reported back then, pictures of the wreckage of a U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator emerged on Sept. 19, 2012. The drone was allegedly shot down by the rebels on Sept. 18, in the Hakkari prefecture, where the drone was flying  an operation against the rebel bastion of Uludere.

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The MQ-1 was part of a force of four U.S. Predator UAVs deployed to Incirlik airbase, in southern Turkey (one of the airports used to launch drone surveillance missions over Syria).

Months later, the Air Force released an accident report about an MQ-1B Predator crashed in a U.S. Central Command area of responsibility shortly after losing its satellite data link  on Sept. 18, 2012.

The report did not say that the drone was shot down (because either it was not downed or the fact it was lost to enemy fire could not be confirmed) nor mentioned that it was lost in Turkey (exact location was withheld and replaced by the generic U.S. CENTCOM area of responsibility).

Isn’t this different approach on the two episodes a bit strange?

The fact that Predators were deployed in Turkey and were (and probably still are) flying surveillance missions over Kurdish rebels was not a secret. Still, they did not officially acknowledge that an MQ-1 crashed in Turkey.

A scarcely know Camcopter drone crashes in Somalia and they immediately tell the world that it was an American one.

Why did they disclose the Somalia crash and not the Turkish one?

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  • Thatguy96

    The US military had or still has a specific named military operation with regards to Northern Iraq, likely as part of efforts to help combat the PKK as part of the larger Operation Enduring Freedom. Information on Operation Nomad Shadow is scarce if available at all. It is known that intelligence gathering over Northern Iraq, likely in support of Nomad Shadow, was not necessarily conducted as tertiary to Operation Iraqi Freedom either. Creek Warrior U-2 flights and Creek Wind RC-135V/W flights were simply tasked through EUCOM in support of OEF as of ~2007.

  • pat

    A couple of theories:

    1) The location of the shoot down/crash might be more important than the particular system involved in the incident. Everyone knows, or at least assumes, that the U.S is flying drones over Somolia, and no one (besides Al-Shabab) is really going to care what the U.S flies over Somolia. It’s entirely possible that U.S officials don’t want attention drawn to UAV ops over Turkey so as not to inflame certain Turkish citizen or neighboring country’s opinions on the matter.

    2) It also might depend on what agency the drones belonged to. Both the CIA and Pentagon fly MQ-1’s as well as other drones. Perhaps the CIA owned the drone that crashed in Turkey, while the Pentagon owned the one downed in Somolia. The Pentagon is historically more open about aircraft losses than the CIA is.