Iran's Shooting Down of U.S. Drone Is a 'Clear Message' to Washington, Revolutionary Guard Commander Says

U.S. officials have confirmed that an American drone has been shot down by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf.

Iran claimed that the aircraft was brought down using a surface-to-air missile while flying a spy mission within its airspace, though U.S. officials said the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz when destroyed.

An unnamed American official told Reuters that the aircraft was a U.S. Navy MQ-4C Triton drone. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier claimed it was an RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The MQ-4C Triton is an unarmed surveillance drone powered by a jet engine. It can operate at altitudes up to 60,000 feet. The Triton is the Navy's version of the UAV that the Air Force refers to as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which could explain conflicting reports about the drone from Iran and the U.S.

Initial reaction from Iran has been bullish. According to The Associated Press, IRGC commander General Hossein Salami said the destruction of the U.S. drone has sent "a clear message" to American leaders. Though he stressed Iran does "not have any intention for war with any country," he warned "we are ready for war."

The chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, repeated the IRGC claim that the drone was violating Iranian airspace, and suggested the U.S. was in "clear violation of the UN Charter and national sovereignty of the country." According to the Mehr News Agency, Falahatpisheh said such surveillance flights were "complementary" to recent U.S. naval deployments to the Persian Gulf region.

The attack is the latest escalation in the increasingly tense standoff between Washington and Tehran, which has prompted the U.S. to send thousands of extra troops to the Middle East.

Though tensions remain high, each escalation appears to be measured so as not to prompt a major conflict. However, with each incident the risk of miscalculation rises.

The shoot-down comes a week after Iranian forces reportedly targeted another U.S. drone—an MQ-9 Reaper—in the area, which was collecting intelligence on attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. American officials suggested Iran was trying to stop the U.S. gathering evidence suggesting that Iranian forces were behind attacks on the Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair tankers.

The Gulf of Oman incident occurred just one month after four tankers were bombed while at anchor off the coast of the UAE. The U.S. also blamed Tehran for the attacks, though Iran denied any involvement.

The two nations have targeted each other's drones in the past. The U.S. shot down an Iranian drone over Syria in the summer of 2017, claiming it had posed a threat to American troops stationed in the country.

For its part, Iran has claimed to have hacked into multiple U.S. UAVs and taken control of them. Earlier this year, the IRGC released footage it said was taken from such a hack, in which it forced a U.S. drone to crash land in the Syrian desert. U.S. forces then reportedly destroyed the compromised drone in an airstrike.

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In this file photo, an MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft prepares to land at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. U.S. Navy/Kelly Schindler