“This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.
Urban identified the drone as a RQ-4A Global Hawk, adding the craft “provides real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions (ISR) over vast ocean and coastal regions.”
A US Navy official tells CNN that the approximate cost of the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone is $110 million.
Global Hawks have amassed more than 250,000 flight hours since 2001 and have flown in support of US missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, according to its developer, the US national security contractor Northrop Grumman.
The RQ-4A is the original drone, which has since been modernized in the larger RQ-4B batch, as well as various other modifications. The MQ-4C Triton, which a US official had previously told CNN was the aircraft involved, is an evolution of the Global Hawk RQ-4 family.
Carrying multiple sensor payloads, the aircraft “is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather — day or night,” Northrop says.
The Global Hawk can fly above inclement weather and winds, for more than 24 hours at a time.
During a single mission, it can “provide detailed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in near-real time over 40,000 square miles — approximately the size of Illinois,” Northrop adds.
The RQ-4A received its military airworthiness certificate from the US Air Force in January 2006, signifying it had earned “a proven track record of safe and reliable operations.”