WASHINGTON – A Navy drone that disappeared along the coast in central Libya in June was probably shot down by forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, a U.S. military investigation has concluded.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet, the investigation found that the unmanned Fire Scout that disappeared June 21 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, so they can't be completely sure what happened, 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 officials suddenly lost radar contact with it.
The U.S. has been providing drones for the Libyan conflict, including armed Predators that have been used to strike targets on nearly 70 missions.
A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gadhafi's forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31.
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 nation's capital. Controllers were able to reprogram the drone and bring it back to the Webster Field Annex at the naval air station at Patuxent River, Md.