FRANKFURT: A German naval frigate sent to protect commercial ships in the Red Sea ‘almost shot down’ a US drone by mistake earlier this week.

The German defence ministry confirmed media reports that a drone incident involving an allied nation occurred on Monday, without naming the country.

The Hesse frigate opened fire after efforts to identify an unknown drone “were unsuccessful”, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said during a visit to the German town of Oberviechtach, adding that the target was “not hit”.

The drone later turned out to be a “reconnaissance drone”, he said.

According to Der Spiegel weekly, the frigate fired two missiles at the drone, but both crashed into the sea because of “a technical defect”.

The weekly, without citing its sources, said the drone that was nearly downed was a US Reaper.

It might have been operating in the region “as part of an American anti-terror mission” unrelated to the Red Sea mission, Spiegel added.

The Frankfurter Allgem-eine newspaper said it was “common knowledge that American combat drones are used in the region that have nothing to do with the operation in the Red Sea”. The German defence ministry said the frigate only launched an attack after none of its allies reported a drone in the area.

According to Spiegel, military officials believed the friendly fire incident showed that coordination between allies involved in various missions in the region around Yemen “needs to be improved”.

The Hesse arrived in the region at the weekend as part of an EU mission to help secure shipping in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen’s Houthis.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2024

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