U.S. MQ-9 Reaper Drone Goes Down in Yemen Amid Red Sea Tensions

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone went down in Yemen's central Marib province, with images circulating online Wednesday. The incident, potentially the third this month, coincides with Houthi rebels intensifying attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, fueled by the ongoing -Hamas war.

Drone Downed in Yemen

Images analyzed by The Associated Press show an MQ-9 Reaper drone lying in the desert of Marib, Yemen. The drone reportedly appeared mostly intact, with its tail assembly detached and at least one hatch open. There were no visible markings or blast damage on the drone.

The U.S. Central Command acknowledged reports of the downed drone but did not confirm the cause. A U.S. defense official stated, “the U.S. Air Force has not lost any aircraft operating within U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility,” but did not provide further details. Other American paramilitary forces are known to operate drones in Yemen.

Context of the Incident

Marib, located 75 miles east of Sanaa, is a strategic location on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula's Empty Quarter Desert. It has previously seen U.S. drones brought down, highlighting its importance in Yemen's protracted conflict.

Since the civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis seized northern Yemen and its capital, Sanaa, the U.S. military has lost at least five drones to the rebels. This month alone, two other suspected Reaper shootdowns have been reported but not confirmed by the U.S. military. The Reaper drone, costing around $30 million, can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and has a 24-hour endurance.

Houthi Escalation and Regional Impact

The Houthis have escalated their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, demanding an end to the war in Gaza. These attacks have included over 50 assaults on vessels, the seizure of one ship, and the sinking of another since November. These actions have led to a decline in shipping through these critical waterways.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree confirmed an attack on the bulk carrier Laax and claimed responsibility for other unreported assaults, although no evidence was provided to substantiate these claims. Saree has a history of exaggerating Houthi military actions.

DroneXL's Take

The downing of another U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone in Yemen underscores the ongoing risks and challenges in the region. The Houthis' aggressive stance and the broader geopolitical tensions further complicate the situation. The increased Houthi attacks on shipping highlight the strategic importance of drones in monitoring and securing these critical maritime routes. As evolves, their role in conflict zones like Yemen will likely expand, emphasizing the need for robust defense measures and strategic planning.

Photo courtesy of Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado / Air Force

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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