15:44 GMT26 January 2021
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    A hugely expensive spy drone flown by the US Navy struck an object during takeoff late last month, which the service said caused millions in damage. Between the November incident, a June shootdown by Iran and a 2012 crash, the Navy may only have two of the machines left.

    According to a statement by the US Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Persian Gulf, an RQ-4A Broad Area Maritime Surveillance - Demonstrator (BAMS-D) drone struck debris during takeoff last month, causing major damage to the port side of the aircraft.

    The November 26 incident caused at least $2 million in damage to the unmanned aerial vehicle, earning it the category of Class A mishap; however, the Navy didn’t give a specific price tag for the repairs. The Navy paid $23 million for the drone, but according to USNI, which first reported the story, its value today is $180 million.

    The Navy modified five of the drones built by Northrop Grumman for the US Air Force, which calls them Global Hawks. The Navy also adopted a later version, the MQ-4C Triton, which only recently entered full service.

    Neither drone flies from a carrier, though; in fact, they’re the largest UAVs in use by the Pentagon, with a 130-foot wingspan. They can stay aloft for 30 hours at a time, cover more than 9,000 miles and attain altitudes of 65,000 feet.

    Military.com noted the Navy has in the past flown BAMS-D drones from Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

    One of the RQ-4As was shot down by Iran in a June incident about which the details are still in hot dispute. Tehran claimed the drone had ventured into Iranian airspace, after which the country’s forces shot it down with a surface-to-air missile; Washington claims the spy plane was over international waters when it was hit. Another crashed into the Chesapeake Bay in 2012 during testing.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    UAV, damage, mishap, US Navy, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-4C Triton
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