US Navy says drone lost in Libya likely shot down

AP , Saturday 6 Aug 2011

A US Navy drone that disappeared along the coast in central Libya in June was probably shot down by pro-Gaddafi forces, US military investigation concludes

According to Lieutenant Commander Mark Walton, a spokesman for the US Navy's 6th Fleet, the investigation opened by the US military on the loss of an unmanned Fire Scout drone that disappeared 21 June has concluded that it was not brought down by mechanical failure or operator error.

The location of the crash, along with the fighting going on there, made it impossible for investigators to examine the wreckage or the crash site, Walton said. As a result, he said they came to the "logical conclusion" that it was probably shot down.

The Fire Scout was unarmed and conducting a surveillance mission for NATO when officers suddenly lost radar contact with it. The US has been providing drones for the Libyan conflict, including armed Predators that have been used on 70 strike missions.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gaddafi's forces under a UN resolution to protect civilians on 19 March. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on 31 March.

According to officials, this is the first time a Navy MQ-8B Fire Scout has been lost in combat.

A year ago, one of the Fire Scouts went off course during testing and entered restricted airspace near the US capital. Controllers were able to reprogramme the drone and bring it back to the Webster Field Annex at the naval air station at Patuxent River, Maryland.

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