A US military drone has been shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, a US official said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said the drone was a US Navy MQ-4C Triton.
Iran’s borders “represent our red line,” the head of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned after Tehran said it shot down the drone over its waters.
Tehran’s response to the drone was “a clear message” from the “defenders of the borders” of Iran, said Hossein Salami, quoted by Tasnim news agency.
Iran will “respond to all foreign aggression and our reaction is, and will be, categorical and absolute,” Salami added.
The US military confirmed the incident and said that it took place in international airspace, challenging Iran’s account that the US aircraft had been flying over Iranian territory.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace,” he added.
He said the shoot-down took place in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.
US President Donald Trump will be meeting later on Thursday with senior Pentagon officials to determine the nature of the response against Iran.
Lieutenant General Joseph T. Guastella, speaking from al-Udeid air base in Qatar, said in a Pentagon briefing that the US drone did not enter Iranian airspace, adding that Iran’s downing was “escalatory” and “irresponsible”.
The aircraft’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, says on its website that the Triton can fly for over 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The United States has blamed Iran for last week’s tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman, a charge vehemently denied by the Islamic republic.