UPDATE: A popular aircraft tracking site @AircraftSpots has claimed it tracked an MQ-4C Triton departing NAS Jacksonville in Florida on June 15, and arrived at Al Dhafra Ab in the UAE early the next day. But the airframe identified by the site – 166510 – is not a Triton, but is actually an RQ-4A BAMS-D air vehicle designated N-2, the aircraft pictured at bottom of page.
PREVIOUSLY: News is emerging that Iran has shot down a US Navy Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime ISR air vehicle that was flying in international airspace off the Iranian coast.
The multiple social media reports – some claiming US DoD conformation – have come amid rising tensions between Iran, the US, and gulf cooperation council (GCC) countries in the region following the withdrawal of the US from an international nuclear weapons limitation agreement with Iran last year, Iran’s support of Houthi rebels in the Yemeni civil war, and the mining of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman late last week which the US has attributed to Iran.
Iran has only said it had shot down a Global Hawk in the Straits of Hormuz region after it penetrated Iranian airspace, but so far only unconfirmed or anonymous reports by US DoD “officials” have been referenced, and ADBR has been unable to confirm a quote from verifiable source that confirms the UAS type.
The MQ-4C Triton is believed to have only recently achieved an early operational capability (EOC) with the US Navy, with two air vehicles due to be based on the Pacific island of Guam sometime this northern summer but, if true, this is the first reported use of the system in the Middle East region.
The US has previously deployed USAF RQ-4A/B and US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawks to the region. The US Navy’s RQ-4A is a modified early-build USAF Block 10 RQ-4A which features a maritime search radar and enhanced communications, and the system has been deployed in the region almost non stop for nearly a decade as part of the US Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Development (BAMS-D) program to develop its concepts of operation for the larger Triton.
This story will be updated as more details come to hand.
JUN 15: US Navy MQ-4C 166510 TRITON2 departed NAS Pax River at approx 0340Z for Al Dhafra Airbase, Qatar. pic.twitter.com/6Xu21joejg
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) June 20, 2019