U.S. Says Iran Shot Down U.S. Drone
A U.S. official says an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a U.S. drone flying in international airspace over the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The official spoke to The Associated Press and the Reuters news service Thursday on the condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be cleared for release.
The word came after Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a U.S. "spy" drone, though a different type, that was flying over Iran. But the U.S. military denied any of its aircraft were operating over Iran at the time.
The incidents come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over Iran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.
The U.S. official told Reuters the drone that was hit over the Strait of Hormuz was a U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton. The official didn't say when it happened.
The Triton's manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, says on its website that it can fly for more than a day at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The drone Iran said it shot down was a RQ-4 Global Hawk. The claim of that shootdown came after the U.S. military alleged Iran fired a missile at another drone last week that responded to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blames Iran for the attack on the ships, which Tehran denies.
The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran following President Trump's decision to withdraw from Tehran's nuclear deal a year ago.
The White House separately said late Wednesday it was aware of reports of a missile strike on Saudi Arabia amid a campaign targeting the kingdom by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.
Iran recently has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 nuclear deal.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. Mysterious attacks also have targeted oil tankers as Iranian-allied Houthi rebels launched bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.
All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran's Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 750 miles southeast of Tehran and close to the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency, citing the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.
But Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, told The Associated Press: "There was no drone over Iranian territory."
Northrop Grumman, whlich also makes the RQ-4 Global Hawk, says on its website that the drone is "able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours" and is "designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night."
The Reuters news agency reports the Guard's news website Sepah News referred to the aircraft as a "spy" drone.
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Mr. Trump had been "briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
"We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies," Sanders said.
A White House official confirmed to CBS News that senior officials met at the White House Wednesday night after the reports of the missile strike in Saudi Arabia.
The Houthi's Al-Masirah satellite news channel claimed the rebels targeted a power plant in Jizan, near the kingdom's border with Yemen, with a cruise missile. Saudi state media and officials did not immediately report a missile strike Thursday.
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the conflict. In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched a new campaign sending missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.