Was a USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone shot down over Libya?

A US-made MQ-9 Reaper UAV came down over Libya, just outside the city of Benghazi, on August 23, 2022. 

Ahmed al-Mismari, the spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA), reported that a drone was shot down while it was carrying out a reconnaissance mission near Benghazi in eastern Libya. 

The east of Libya has been under the control of the LNA, a faction led by Khalifa Haftar. Since 2019, the former general turned warlord has clashed with the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and recognized by the United Nations. 

The United States Air Force confirmed it had lost a drone in the area.  

“U.S. Africa Command has confirmed that a U.S. Air Force Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) crashed in the vicinity of Benghazi, Libya,” the USAF told AeroTime in an emailed statement. “The aircraft was operating in support of U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland’s diplomatic engagements scheduled to occur in eastern Libya, and there was prior coordination with the appropriate Libyan authorities.” 

An investigation was opened to determine the cause of the incident.

Unverified photographs of the wreckage hint that it might have been an MQ-9 Extended Range (ER) drone, a variant solely operated by the United States Air Force. 

USAF MQ-9 ER drones are known to carry out reconnaissance sorties over Libya and the Mediterranean Sea from Naval Air Station Sigonella in eastern Sicily, Italy, where the 324th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron is based. 

A Telegram channel associated with the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group claimed the drone was shot down by a Pantsir C1 air defense system operated by Wagner mercenaries. 

 

In November 2020, an MQ-9A Predator belonging to the Italian Air Force was shot down near Tahruna, 65 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, during a maritime surveillance mission. The LNA claimed to have shot down the drone. 

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