Global Hawk shootdown validates Iran’s indigenous SAM capabilities

21 June 2019

A 3 Khordad system is seen during a February 2017 air defence exercise. Source: Iran Military Tube

Key Points

  • The US has confirmed Iran's claim it shot down a Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at a range of about 70 km
  • Iran credited a 3 Khordad, one of several new indigenous surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, with the shootdown

The shooting down of a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle on 20 June appears to have confirmed that Iran has developed highly capable surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems in recent years.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced the incident, saying the Global Hawk was shot down near Kuh Mubarak on Iran's Gulf of Oman coast after it entered Iranian territory without identifying itself. It released a video purportedly showing the engagement, with a 3 Khordad self-propelled SAM system launching a missile at night.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted co-ordinates for the location of the UAV when it was shot down that put it inside Iranian territorial airspace over the Gulf of Oman.

The US military's Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed Iran shot down an RQ-4A but stressed that the UAV never entered Iranian airspace. It supported this assertion by releasing an image apparently taken by the UAV of the incoming missile that showed it was located in international airspace at an altitude of 22,209 ft (6,769 m) over the Gulf of Oman immediately before it was hit.

A map released by CENTCOM provided the approximate location of the SAM launch on the Iranian coast some 70 km away.

There are no fixed SAM sites within range of the shootdown location, lending credence to the claim that a mobile system like the 3 Khordad was used in the engagement.

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