A United States military drone has been shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, a US official has confirmed.
- The US denies having a drone in the area, despite Iran’s claim it shot one down
- Iranian state TV identified it as a drone type generally used for unmanned surveillance missions
- The US blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers last week and is increasing its military presence in the region
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards claimed to have shot down a US “spy” drone that entered Iranian airspace, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Iranian State news agency IRNA identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is generally used for unmanned surveillance missions.
The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drone was actually a US Navy MQ-4C Triton and it was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
Washington denied having a drone in Iran’s airspace.
“No US aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today,” Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, said.
Tensions between Iran and the US have risen since last year, when US President Donald Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
Washington has since increased its military presence in the region, sending additional heavy weaponry and troops in recent months and announcing this week a further 1,000 US troops will be deployed.
The US blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers last week, and four tankers off the United Arab Emirates coast on May 12, all near the Strait of Hormuz, a major conduit for global oil supplies.
Iran has denied the accusation.
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The attacks left one tanker on fire and all sailors were evacuated from both shipsABC NEWS
Iran recently quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium, and this week threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 deal.
Rising tensions have raised fears a miscalculation could push the US 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 on Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran’s Hormozgan province.
Kouhmobarak is some 1,200 kilometres south-east of Tehran and is close to the Strait of Hormuz.
The US military confirmed an attempt by Iran to shoot down a US drone last week, as well as a successful downing of one on June 6 by Iran-aligned Houthi forces in Yemen.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk can fly at high altitudes for more than 30 hours, gathering near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather, maker Northrop Grumman says on its website.