A Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk was shot down over the Straight of Hormuz by Iranian forces. The unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying in international airspace at the time, though Iranian government representatives have claimed otherwise. The Global Hawk is a high altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle designed for persistent, real time intelligence gathering.
The story has been ongoing and rapidly developing over the last forty-eight hours (at the time of writing) and much remains unknown. What is clear is that a US Navy operated Broad Area Maritime Surveillance-Demonstrator (BAMS-D) aircraft, a developmental aircraft type built on ex-USAF RQ-4A airframes, was shot down. It crashed into the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, offshore of Iran. The missile that struck the BAMS-D was fired from a battery near Iran’s coast.
USAF CentCom commander, Lt. Gen Joeseph Guastella, issued a statement to reporters midday on 20th June. “A U.S. Navy RQ-4 was flying over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz on a surveillance mission in international airspace in the vicinity of recent IRGC maritime attacks, when it was shot down by an IRGC surface to air missile fired from a location in the vicinity of Goruk, Iran. At the time of the intercept, the RQ-4 was operating at high-altitude approximately 34 kilometers from the nearest point of land on the Iranian coast,” Guastella told reporters. He did not take questions at the time.
President Trump called off response strikes late in the day on Thursday for unclear reasons. “I thought about it for a second and I said, you know what, they shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it, and here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead,” the President said to NBC in an interview.
Iran also showed off recovered wreckage of the downed aircraft on Friday as both countries’ leaderships issued statements and warnings. “Any mistake by Iran’s enemies, in particular America and its regional allies, would be like firing at a powder keg that will burn America, its interests and its allies to the ground,” Abolfazl Shekarchi, the senior spokesman of Iran’s Armed Forces, said to Iranian news agency Tasnim.
While the situation remains very tense, it does not appear as if conflict between the US and Iran is going to break out, barring any further escalations. Such a conflict would be extremely expensive, in both political and monetary capital, for the US, and potentially disastrous for the Iranians. However, as the crisis continues to play out in the days to come, nothing can be assumed to be certain.