Air Platforms

US Reaper shot down over Sanaa

05 October 2017
The wreckage of the MQ-9 Reaper is seen burning after it crashed in Sanaa. Source: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Yemeni rebels shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper on 1 October, despite their limited air defence capability.
  • The incident has raised questions over why an armed US UAV was flying low over Sanaa.

A US MQ-9 Reaper armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was shot down over western Yemen on 1 October, the US military's Central Command confirmed a day later, saying the incident was under investigation.

The UAV was filmed as it fell burning to the ground in the outskirts of the capital, Sanaa.

Photographs and video from the crash site showed that the wreckage included an M299 missile launcher, the front section of an AGM-114R-2 Hellfire Romeo missile, and a Honeywell turboprop engine, confirming it was a Reaper rather than one of the Chinese-made UAVs flown by the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting Yemeni rebels or an MQ-1 Predator, which uses a Rotax piston engine.

US Reapers are known to be based at Chabelley in Djibouti but local reports have indicated that they are primarily used to target members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen’s southern provinces, not the rebel alliance in the north, which is made up of military units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the pro-Iranian militant group, Ansar Allah (Houthis).

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