Houthis claim to shoot down US MQ-9 Reaper drone in Red Sea

Two U.S. officials have confirmed to Fox News that an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed near Yemen after Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down an American aircraft. 

“We can confirm that a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 crashed off the coast of Hodeidah, Yemen, and are investigating the cause,” a U.S. official told Fox News. 

The officials stressed that it was unclear if the Houthis were involved. If they are, it would be the second time since November 2023 that the Iranian-backed militant group has taken out a Reaper drone, which has a wingspan of 66 feet and costs about $32 million. 

“In Hodeidah, the Yemeni air defenses were able to shoot down an American plane – MQ-9 – with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said earlier in a statement, referencing Israel. 

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MQ-9 Reaper drone

An MQ-9 Reaper drone with Customs and Border Protection awaits the next mission over the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2022 at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The drone crash comes as U.S. forces in the region continue to strike at Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the militants targeting commercial ships transiting the Red Sea. 

Last year, the Houthis released a video showing an MQ-9 Reaper drone being shot down on Nov. 8. 

“We can confirm that a U.S. military MQ-9 remotely-piloted aircraft was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Houthi forces,” a senior U.S. official told Fox News at the time. 

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The official added that the aircraft was shot down while in international airspace over international waters off the coast of Yemen. 

The Air Force says the Reaper drones are primarily used to collect intelligence but can also be armed with up to eight laser-guided Hellfire missiles. 

The drones can run surveillance for several hours at over 25,000 feet; perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting and time-sensitive targets; and operate remotely with two crew members — one pilot to control the drone and a crew member to operate sensors and guide weapons. 

Houthi supporters rally in Yemen

Houthi supporters attend a rally on Jan. 26 in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the U.S.-led airstrikes on Yemen, in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP/Osamah Abdulrahman)

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They also have the ability to remain in the air for more than 27 hours. 

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report. 

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