On November 8 militias from the Yemeni Ansurullah Coalition shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone off the country’s coast. The coalition’s Yemeni Armed Forces reported: “Our air defences were able to shoot down an American MQ-9 aircraft while it was carrying out hostile, monitoring and spying activities in the airspace of Yemeni territorial waters,” claiming that the aircraft was operating “within the framework of American military support” for Israel. “The Yemeni Armed Forces affirm their legitimate right to defend the country and confront all hostile threats. Hostile movements will not deter the Yemeni armed forces from continuing to carry out military operations against the Israeli entity in support of the oppression of the Palestinian people,” it added. Footage of the shootdown was also released. American sources have disputed whether the aircraft was operating within Yemeni airspace, although senior U.S. defence officials confirmed that the aircraft was shot down. The drone class is operated by the U.S. Air Force and the Marine Corps, with some units having also been operated by NASA and the CIA.
Ansurullah Coalition forces have gained a significant number of kills against enemy aircraft since the outbreak of war in Yemen in 2015, including multiple Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 and Tornado fighters, multiple Apache attack helicopters, Moroccan and Bahraini F-16s, a Sudanese Air Force Su-24 strike fighter, and American and UAE MQ-1 drones, among other assets in the war’s first three years alone. The has included previous shootdowns of American MQ-9 Reaper drones, the first of which was neutralised on October 1, 2017, with further Reapers taken out on June 6 and August 21, 2019. American MQ-9 Reaper drones have been very widely deployed across the Middle East including recently for operations in the Gaza Strip in support of Israeli operations there. Reapers violating Syrian airspace have been intercepted multiple times this year by Russian fighter aircraft, and on at least one occasion took serious damage in encounters with Russian Air Force Su-35 fighters. One of the most significant operations carried out by the aircraft in recent years was the deployment of a CIA operated Reaper drone to assassinate Iran’s most decorated military officer General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. The framing of the shootdown as part of an effort to support the ongoing war effort against Israel comes as Ansurullah Coalition forces have actively sought to contribute to hostilities, including by conducting long range cruise missile strikes against Israeli targets.