Here’s What We Know About The German Navy Allegedly Firing On A US Drone

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

German publications reported that the German Navy frigate Hessen fired on a U.S. MQ-9 drone by mistake.

The Hessen, deployed to the Red Sea to help protect international shipping, shot down two drones, according to Reuters. It is part of the European Union’s effort to protect commercial ships and intercept Houthi attacks, which have impacted international shipping lanes, the outlet reported.

German publications such as Der Spiegel and Augen Geradeaus reported that the Hessen fired on the MQ-9 drone. Der Spiegel reported that Hessen targeted the MQ-9 drone with SM-2 missiles, but the munitions failed for technical reasons. (RELATED: Houthi Rebels Claim To Hit U.S. Warship In Red Sea)

The Augen Geradeaus reported that the shoot-down attempt was due to the MQ-9 not having its friend or foe identification transponder and that allied warships did not have knowledge of the drone being in the area. The publication later said that a German Ministry of Defense spokesman said that the incident was being analyzed.

The MQ-9 drone was on a counter-terrorism mission, according to Der Spiegel. The War Zone stated that “MQ-9 Reapers are highly active over the region and are a key component of efforts to spot potential nefarious acts by Houthi fighters before they are completed.”

Reuters reported that a defense ministry spokesperson said during a media conference that the Hessen identified a suspicious drone on Feb. 26 but failed to shoot it down. Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that the Hessen engaged a “reconnaissance drone” after attempts to to identify it were not successful, though the warship failed to shoot it down, according to AFP.

A defense official told Check Your Fact that “we are aware of reports and looking into the matter.”

“CENTCOM is in close coordination with the EU and Operation Aspides to ensure safe deconfliction of airspace. Operation Prosperity Guardian and Operation Aspides continue to operate alongside each other as we continue our mission to ensure freedom of navigation,” the defense official said.

A defense official later told Check Your Fact that “we can confirm that a U.S. MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was targeted in the Red Sea Feb. 27. The UAV did not receive damage and continued its mission.” The defense official did not confirm whether or not the Hessen targeted the MQ-9 drone. 

Lt. Col Bryon McGarry, a Pentagon spokesman for the Middle East and Africa, told Check Your Fact that the Pentagon would respond to this outlet’s media inquiry “as soon as possible.” A spokesman for the German Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command referred Check Your Fact to the German defense minister’s comments.

US Central Command said in a Feb. 27 update that aircraft and a coalition warship (presumably the Hessen) shot down five Houthi attack drones in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have shot down two MQ-9 drones since the Red Sea crisis began in November, according to the War Zone.

Check Your Fact has reached out to the German Ministry of Defense for comment.

Note: This article is based on developing information and a verdict has not been rendered. A verdict may or may not be reached after more information becomes available. 

Update 2/29/2024: This article has been updated to note that a defense official confirmed that a MQ-9 drone was targeted in the Red Sea on Feb. 27, though did not say who targeted it.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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