U.S. drone crashed in Syria. Probably shot down by a Syrian SA-3 surface to air missile

Mar 17 2015 - 43 Comments

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.

3) the area where the drone was allegedly shot down is the same where a Turkish RF-4E jet was shot down by a coastal air defense battery.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


  • A. Physicist

    Something’s not right — the tail fin shown in the photos is tapered, while an MQ-1 has straight stabilizers. It’s too small to be a reaper. One of the twitter comments suggests a Thales WK450, which appears to match the wreckage. Also note the battery, “Made in E.U.” Dead giveaway!

    • A. Physicist

      Mystery partially solved: the ‘tail’ piece actually appears to be the last section of an MQ-1 wing, minus the control surfaces. Note the 4-screw pattern. While the tires don’t unambiguously match the MQ-1, there are photos of other MQ-1s with a variety of different tread patterns, so that doesn’t rule it out. The “Made in E.U.” battery is still a mystery to me!

      • Menschmaschine

        Why should a US drone not contain european batteries? It could be from SAFT S. A., a french Company that also supplies the JSF.

    • bwest9

      Great detective work, thanks.

    • tomando

      > “Also note the battery, “Made in E.U.” Dead giveaway!”

      It’s rather comical that a drone, a device for potentially killing, has a battery marked:

      “Must Be Recycled
      Dispose of Properly
      Do Not Incinerate”

      Yes, we’re killing people and blowing up things, but we must always recycle!

  • Josh

    So if they’ve shot down a drone, what’s to stop them from taking a shot at a manned fighter next? I say find the battery that missile came from and bomb it into the stone age. If they do it again, take out the radar installation. And if they still insist on taking shots at our aircraft go after C&C facilities. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile; don’t let this stand.

    • FrankW

      As an American citizen, I believe Obama needs to stop meddling in the affairs of the Assad government. This incident is just another example of him trying to taunt Assad into a confrontation against the U.S. Obama hates Assad, and would rather have radical Sunni Islamic groups (like AQ, ISIS running Syria). Sorry, but if I had to choose between Assad or ISIS, i’m siding with Assad. My parents are Christians from Lebanon; and Assad protects the Christians in Syria from what is happening (be-headings, crucifixions, and murdering) to them in Iraq. Because if Syria falls to ISIS, I can tell you Lebanon and Jordan will be next-

    • John Kenealy

      We were illegally over flying Syrian airspace bro

      • Josh

        I’m aware of that…bro. Right or wrong, as long as Bashar Al-Asad and his forces are incapable of keeping the extremist groups with in their borders under control we will be involved. As such, as long as the United States and other partner nations are involved we have an obligation to protect those carrying out the strikes. I stand by what I said, this should not be allowed to stand.

      • E1-Kabong

        What about those Turkish airspace violations?

    • tjohn6041

      My solution: don’t violate other countries airspace, especially with aircraft that can carry weapons. Unlike your proposal, this does not involve aggressively attacking a nation that was trying to defend itself from invaders.

      • Josh

        Frank W. and tjohn6041, 12 months ago I would have agreed with each of you; we had no reason to become directly involved. The growth of cancer that is IS and other extremist organizations with in Syria has dictated a change in policy regarding intervention in Syria. The Asad regimes in ability to control the growth and spread of these organizations has made it necessary for the West and our Arab partners to become involved.

        None of the air strikes that have taken place have been directed at the Assad regime. My comment is not meant to insinuate that I believe we should over throw the regime. However, as long as these organizations attempt to conduct acts of terror and behead our citizens outside of the Syrian civil war, we have the right to conduct strikes against those organizations. As long as we are doing so, we also have an obligation to take measures of protecting those war fighters that are conducting those strikes.

      • E1-Kabong

        Tell your Russian and Syrian pals that the next time they want to wander into Turkish airspace…

  • C_Low

    The SAM sites in the area should be targeted.

    ISIS has no aircraft so it was not mistaken identity. It is irrelevant if the drone was a lost bird making a auto return or simply transiting past it should be crystal the cost of targeting the US.

    • John Kenealy

      But it was over sovereign airspace. Trust me, I’m a red blooded American and even will be enlisting in the Army in may upon graduation. But that doesn’t make me forget that technically we were over flying a countries airspace. Not that we shouldnt; actually I think we need more flights to monitor assad and keep or intelligence up to date on him should he outlive his usefulness to us…but still, don’t be butt hurt when they decide to shoot a drone down that is illegally trespassing in Syrian airspace

      • E1-Kabong

        You’re joining the military?

        Enjoy Leavenworth…

    • tjohn6041

      Why? It is not our airspace to fly through. Unless you are ok with Russian bombers patrolling are airspace, then we should not attack a government fighting a common enemy, even if it is an enemy w created

      • Josh

        You want to compare the Russians probing our, and NATO’s, airspace to what our aircraft are doing in Syria? Let’s not forget what started this whole thing. The US and our partners rightly waited as long as possible before becoming involved in this mess of a conflict. Years and hundreds of thousands of lives were wasted and we did nothing until the conflict spilled over international borders and actors with in the conflict began to BEHEAD our citizens!

        Until Bashar Al-Asad can get his own affairs in order and control his own damn country we have a right to take measures towards protecting our interests and our citizens!

    • MrHorse

      Well if you think about it, maybe the syrians are just telling the USAF that there is a cost trespassing their borders.

    • tjohn6041

      Oh, and as for ISIS has no aircraft, way to go 007: http://www.centcom.mil/en/news/articles/march-18-military-airstrikes-continue-against-isil-in-syria-and-iraq. They also use lots of captured helicopters.

  • Luis

    Another victim but to the allegedly obsolete S-125 …

    • tony

      its a predator, not like its maneuvering with 9G’s. you could hit a predator or reaper with a SA-3,5,6,8, etc.

    • E1-Kabong

      Shooting down a drone is SO difficult…. /sarc

  • Michael Rich

    If we are trying to do reconnaissance over Syrian airspace secured with SAM’s should’t we be using something like the RQ-170 instead of MQ-1?

    • tony

      who’s to say the -170 isn’t operating? would you like them to tell you the OOB??

      • Michael Rich

        Then why are we wasting MQ-1’s over Syria? Each one we loose is $4M gone.

        • tony

          that is a fair question, especially considering this incident occurred in Western Syria

  • John

    Where did you see the reported SA-3 body in the wreckage?

  • CableLegend

    What’s up w/ the battery pack manufactured in the EU?

  • David

    The US had no right to fly over that region.The Syrian Army has every right to shoot down any kind of aircraft over regions which are firmly under there control.Why was a US drone operating in Latakia that region is full of military installations and hosts several Russian ships which pass by to resupply them self’s and drop off supply’s to the Syrian Army which makes it a highly sensitive area.Next time the US should be more careful where it fly’s its drones.

    • E1-Kabong

      Same for your pals flying over Turkey….

  • gunnergoz

    A shoot no doubt dictated by Russian advisers in an attempt to gather intel on latest Western drone tech. All those bits will end up in the Kremlin’s labs.

    • tjohn6041

      A predator? Those things are ancient!

    • Marco

      Sure… because an MQ-1 is such a high tech tool. Last time I checked it was quite close to a practice target for AAA gunners… I mean guns, not missiles. Way too easy for missiles and jet fighters.

  • CableLegend

    What is up with the made in EU battery pack?

    • E1-Kabong

      Ever hear of the global economy?

  • Mike1

    Wow who knew that they had missiles so advanced that they can take out a drone (sarcasm). Because MQ-1(s) are so maneuverable and so fast. Give it up to Syria, bet they will be bragging about this and saying how deadly there country is

  • Rúben Couto

    I think there is a gorwing need of “Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance”…

  • Mike

    Lol, Israelian?

  • tjohn6041

    I am not sure, but the unit might be from a NATO base in the EU somewhere, and the might have batteries that can be used for the predator

  • Artem Iskhakov

    Well done. Invaders drone as well as any manned thing must be shoot down whoever is it – USA, EU, Israel, no matter.

    • E1-Kabong

      Syrian and Russian violations of Turkish airspace will be dealt with, accordingly.

  • E1-Kabong

    Prove it.