An unarmed Italian Air Force Predator-B Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has crashed in Libya near Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli.
On 20 November, the Italian Ministry of Defence (MoOD) confirmed that “contact was lost with an Italian Air Force drone, which subsequently crashed in Libyan territory.”
The UAV was reportedly flying in the middle of a ‘drone war’ currently being waged between Al-Sarraj and Haftar ’s forces.
LNA of Khalifa Haftar claimed to have shot down the UAV that, based on the initial reports, was thought to be Turkish until the images showing the Italian roundel have started to surface on the Internet.
Haftar forces have been using Chinese Wing Loong II drones since he began his attempt earlier this year to storm Tripoli.
A series of drones attacks have prompted Turkey, an ally of al-Sarraj, to deliver Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, mounting air strikes on Haftar’s forces.
The Predator-B was “following a flight plan previously communicated to Libyan authorities,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The fact that the drone crashed several kilometres inland in the country suggested the drone was being flown on an Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission, although the Italian authorities said that the Predator-B was flying in support of Operation ‘Mare Sicuro’, an Italian ISR mission to monitor human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea.
Defence Insight Analysis
The 32° Stormo and its two-child units, the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) based at Amendola, and the 61° Gruppo, detached to Sigonella, in Sicily, operate a mixed fleet of MQ-1C Predator A+ (an upgraded variant of the baseline RQ-1B Predator A) and MQ-9A Predator B RPVs (Remotely Piloted Vehicles).
This drones fleet has been previously deployed for ISR mission in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa, and notably in Libya during the 2011 NATO air-block operations.