UPDATED: Tracking Recent American MQ-9 Reaper Losses

Over the past year, the United States has lost several MQ-9 Reaper drones due to adversarial action, whether it be from the Russians, Iran-backed militias in Iraq, or the Houthis in Yemen

In this article, I will cover the losses and how they happened, as well as how the losses line up to yearly averages.

The Losses

The Black Sea Incident

On March 14, 2023, a Russian Su-27 fighter collided with the propeller of an American MQ-9 Reaper as it was carrying out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations over the Black Sea, causing the drone to crash into international waters.

Prior to the collision, the Su-27, alongside another, dumped fuel on and flew in front of the MQ-9, which the United States European Command denounced as “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional,” further stating that “this incident demonstrates a lack of competence in addition to being unsafe and unprofessional.”

It is believed that the collision was unintentional and that the Su-27 was lucky to have not crashed alongside the MQ-9.

First Houthi Downing

On November 8, 2023, an American MQ-9 was downed by Houthi air defenses while it was operating over the Red Sea.

The Houthis released a statement saying that their “air defenses were able to shoot down an American MQ9 aircraft while it was carrying out hostile, monitoring and spying activities in the airspace of Yemeni territorial waters and within the framework of American military support for the Israeli entity.”

Unnamed defense officials told Fox News chief national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin that the MQ-9 was intercepted using a Houthi SA-6 SAM system “while in international airspace over international waters off the coast of Yemen.”

It is important to note that the Houthis were previously able to down a Reaper using a SA-6 over Yemen in 2019.

Over a week later, debris washed ashore in Somaliland, which was identified as belonging to a MQ-9A extended range Reaper drone.

Iraq Downing

On January 18, 2024, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization of Iran-backed Shia militias, reported that it had downed an MQ-9 over Diyala, eastern Iraq.

Photos of debris were later released, which included the winglet of an MQ-9A Reaper drone.

The exact weapon used to down the drone remains unclear, although it is assumed to be an Iran-supplied platform.

Second Houthi Downing

On February 19, 2024, an American MQ-9 was downed by Houthi air defenses while it was reportedly operating over port city of al-Hudaydah.

In a statement, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said that “Yemeni air defenses were able to shoot down an American plane (MQ9) with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity.”

“The Yemeni armed forces will not hesitate to take more military measures and carry out more qualitative operations against all hostile targets in defense of beloved Yemen and in confirmation of the position,” he added.

Footage was also provided showing debris that had washed ashore, which appears to be consistent with components from ISR pods frequently used by the Reaper platform.

The exact weapon used to down the drone remains unclear.

Third Houthi Downing

On April 25, 2024, an American MQ-9 was downed by Houthi air defenses while it was operating over the Saada Governate in northwestern Yemen.

The Houthis released a statement saying that “the air defense forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces succeeded in shooting down an American MQ9 aircraft in the airspace of Saada Governorate, while it was carrying out hostile missions, and it was targeted with a suitable missile.”

Some observers have suggested that an Iranian-supplied Taer-2 SAM system was used to down the drone due to the speed of the missile in footage released of the interception, however, this is unconfirmed.

Fourth Houthi Downing

On May 16, 2024, an American MQ-9 Reaper was downed over the Marib Governorate in central Yemen.

A United States official told al-Arabiya national security correspondent Jospeh Haboush at the time that “We are aware of the reports but have no indication that a US CENTCOM MQ-9 was shot down,” suggesting that the drone may have been operated by the CIA or SOCCENT.

Fifth Houthi Downing

Just five days later on May 21, 2024, the Houthis shot down a MQ-9 Reaper over the al-Bayda Governorate in southwestern Yemen.

Footage of the interception was released by the Houthis, where the drone appears to be carrying a pod similar to the one seen during the November 8 downing. The exact nature of the pod remains unknown, although it is likely for ISR operations as it does not look like a self-protection pod.

Sixth Houthi Downing

On May 29, 2024, the Houthis claimed to have downed another MQ-9 Reaper over the Marib Governorate, releasing footage of the interception as other footage of the wreckage made its way online.

This drone appears to be the most intact out of all previous downings.

Total Losses in Yemen Since November 2023: 6

Total Losses for 2024: 6

MQ-9 Weak Points and Loss Track Record

While the MQ-9 has built its legacy on counter terrorism operations against non-state actors in permissive environments, the platform is not best suited for contested airspaces.

The MQ-9 flys lower and slower, as well as lacks any stealth components, when compared to manned strike aircraft used by the United States military. With this, the platform is susceptible to more air defense capabilities (i.e. ones supplied by Iran). Even if engaged, the Reaper lacks countermeasures and must be equipped with a Self-Protect Pod to allow for flare of chaff deployment when targeted by SAM systems.

According to the latest available data provide by the United States Air Force, the MQ-9 platform experiences on average 4.9 Class A mishaps per year, or incidents resulting in direct cost totaling $2 million or more, fatality or permanent total disability, or destruction of a DoD aircraft.

There have been six confirmed Class A losses so far this year due to hostile air defenses capabilities alone. If losses continue at this current pace, we could potentially see up to 12 MQ-9 losses. The largest number of Class A mishaps happened in 2015 at 11, however, these were largely attributed to manufacturing quality issues.

Conclusion

The MQ-9 is a legacy platform, but is currently stuck in the GWOT era unless things change for operations in non-permissive airspaces.

Losses are always expected in global warfare, however, MQ-9 losses due to hostile action are nearing a record pace.

The platform will still have a place in global operations, but as the United States faces off against armed factions better equipped than that of ISIS or the Taliban, the Reaper must adapt or potentially lose relevance.

Atlas
Atlashttp://theatlasnews.co
Unbiased & Unfiltered News Reporting for 12+ years. Covering Geo-Political conflicts, wartime events, and vital Breaking News from around the world. Editor-In-Chief of Atlas News.

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