U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drone Captured by Houthi Militants in Yemen

Houthi forces in Yemen have reportedly captured an almost fully intact MQ-9 Reaper drone
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 01:52 PM, May 29, 2024
  • 1997
U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drone Captured by Houthi Militants in Yemen
MQ-9 Reaper allegedly captured by Yemeni Houthis @via X

A $30 million U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance and strike UAV was reportedly captured nearly intact by Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen on May 29.

Photos and videos purportedly showing the virtually intact drone are being shared on social media. The Pentagon has not commented on this matter so far.

Update: In a televised speech later that day, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree stated that a drone was downed in the southeastern province of Marib, marking the "sixth UAV interception" by their forces.

The latest drone incident suggests that the MQ-9 drone made a hard landing, possibly due to hijacking or GPS spoofing. This follows a similar event on May 17, 2024, when the Houthis shot down another MQ-9 Reaper in Yemen’s northeastern province of Marib. Unlike the previous incident, where the wreckage was destroyed before loyalist army units arrived, this time the wreckage remained intact.

If confirmed, this incident raises concerns that the drone may be transferred to Iran for detailed examination. Iran could gain insights into American drone technology, including advancements in remote piloting, surveillance capabilities, and payload systems. Access to the MQ-9 Reaper's sophisticated sensor suite and communication links could enable Iran to enhance its UAV capabilities, potentially improving their drone designs and counter-drone measures. This transfer could also provide Iran with intelligence on how to better defend against or disrupt American and allied UAV operations in the region.

U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drone Captured by Houthi Militants in Yemen
MQ-9 Reaper allegedly captured by Yemeni Houthis @via X

In October 2023, the Houthis brought down the first MQ-9 Reaper during the war in Gaza. This was followed by another interception in February 2024. On April 26, 2024, a third MQ-9 Reaper was confirmed shot down, with electro-optical footage showing the drone captured in the Houthi Air Defense system's crosshairs before being hit by a missile.

The drone shootdown is part of a broader strategy by the Houthis, which includes launching attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. These actions reportedly aim to pressure Israel over the conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in significant casualties and heightened regional tensions. The Houthis have conducted over 50 attacks on shipping since November, including seizing and sinking vessels.

U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drone Captured by Houthi Militants in Yemen
MQ-9 Reaper allegedly captured by Yemeni Houthis @via X

A day prior to the alleged MQ-9 capture, Houthi-controlled Al Masirah reported that U.S.-British forces launched two airstrikes against Yemen’s Hodeidah. It added that the strikes were an attempt to deter Yemen from its decision to prevent Israeli ships from passing through the Red Sea in support of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

Yemen’s armed forces today announced targeting six ships in the Red Sea (bulk carriers LAAX, MOREA, Sealady), Arabian Sea (American bulk carrier ALBA and container ship Maersk Hartford) and the Mediterranean Sea (oil tanker MINERVA ANTONIA). These attacks come amid Israel’s assault against a refugee camp in Gaza’s Rafah.

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