Monday, March 16, 2009

Coalition Jets Shoot Down Iranian Drone Over Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 - Coalition jet fighters shot down an Iranian drone that was hovering over Iraq late last month, Multinational Force Iraq officials confirmed today.
The incident occurred Feb. 25, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, officials said in a statement.

Two coalition aircraft were directed to visually identify the unmanned aerial vehicle after it was detected hovering inside the Iraqi border. The pilots confirmed that it wasn't a coalition aircraft and that no collateral damage would result from a shoot-down. Coalition air forces tracked the UAV for more than an hour before the pilots engaged it, officials said.

"This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians," officials said. "The UAV was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged."

Officials said they believe the drone to be an Iranian-made Ababil 3 model UAV.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and military leaders have long accused Iran of interference in Iraq. Iran poses "a real problem," Gates said on PBS' "Tavis Smiley Show" March 11.

"I think it's one of the significant challenges that we're going to face over the next several years," he said.