US may have brought down two Iranian drones

CENTCOM Commander says US believes it may have brought down two Iranian drones last week rather than just one.

Elad Benari ,

USS Boxer
USS Boxer

The US believes it may have brought down two Iranian drones last week, rather than just the one that has been reported, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told CBS News on Tuesday.

Asked whether the USS Boxer downed "only one drone," McKenzie revealed that he believed the ship had engaged two drones "successfully" and perhaps even more.

"As always it was a complex tactical picture, we believe two drones. We believe two drones were successfully — there may have been more that we are not aware of — those are the two that we engaged successfully," said McKenzie.

Pressed if the ship had actually brought down two drones, not just one, he replied, "We are confident we brought down one drone, we may have brought down a second.”

CBS’ David Martin, who conducted the interview with McKenzie, said that the incidents occurred about an hour apart during the nine-hour passage through the Strait of Hormuz. The first drone was viewed by the ship as approaching too close, so the Boxer took action, though it's still not clear exactly what that action was.

"It was not a missile or any kind of projectile," Martin said. It was some kind of electronic signal or pulse used to disable the flight controls of the helicopter-like Iranian drone. The first drone, Martin said, simply disappeared from US radars — there was no splash in the water seen by the ship. But there was a visual sighting of the second drone going into the water.

Martin reported that the drones were perceived to be flying too close to the ship, potentially interfering with the Boxer's flight operations. The Boxer is a ship that can carry about 30 aircraft, and it was operating helicopters as it was going through the strait, to keep an eye on nearby Iranian crafts and helicopters, Martin said.

US President Donald Trump announced last Thursday that the Boxer had destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf.

Iran, however, denied Trump’s claims, with its Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, tweeting, “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!”

Meanwhile, Iran’s Press TV network aired footage it claimed was taken by the drone after the US claimed it had been brought down.

The downing of the drone came amid ongoing tensions between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf. Last month, Iran shot down a US drone, claiming it violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of the drone, but pulled back from launching them. He later made clear that he had not called off the planned strike on Iran but rather simply stopped it from going forward at that time.