Tactical

Allies probe accidental targeting of US drone by German navy frigate

COLOGNE, Germany — U.S. military officials are working with the European Union to review an incident in which German frigate Hessen fired twice at an MQ-9 drone earlier this week during a multinational naval protection mission in the Red Sea.

The German vessel, newly arrived in the theater of operations, fired two Standard Missile-2 interceptors at the U.S. drone, but both missed, as German military news website Augengeradeaus first reported.

The attempted shoot-down came after a query with nearby allies about the status of the drone, which flew without a transponder turned on that would allow coalition forces to identify it as friendly, according to the report.

“We can confirm that a U.S. MQ-9 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was targeted in the Red Sea Feb. 27,” a U.S. defense official told Defense News, adding that the aircraft was undamaged and continued its mission.

“CENTCOM is in close coordination with the EU and Operation Aspides to investigate the circumstances that led to this event and to ensure safe deconfliction of airspace,” the official added, using shorthand for U.S. Central Command, the command overseeing American operations in the Middle East.

Germany’s air defense frigate Hessen received parliamentary approval to partake in the European Union’s Operation Aspides last week while already underway to the Red Sea. It is joining a collection of allied warships organized under the EU auspices or the U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect marine traffic in the vital cargo route from drone and missile attacks by the Yemen-based Houthi militia.

The group’s fighters are targeting civilian ships claiming support for Hamas in its war against Israel.

A German military spokesman declined to comment on the incident, pointing instead to comments by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Feb. 27 in which Pistorious confirmed the downing of two hostile drones and two failed attempts to intercept an additional, unspecified aircraft.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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