On Thursday, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down an intruding Global Hawk surveillance drone in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan, marking the first known instance of the workhorse drone being shot down in its nearly 18-year operational history, Presstv Reported.
The Quartz news website reported on Friday that the arms company had in 2008 presented the Pentagon with an analysis of the “future security environment” where the Global Hawk drone can play a central role.
“Deterring and, if needed, fighting a traditional theater conflict will remain a high priority for [US military commanders],” read the Northrop Grumman's analysis.
“A hypothetical conflict with Iran in the 2015 to 2020 time frame will provide a framework for discussion," it added.
Northrop Grumman estimated that seven to eight Global Hawks would be necessary to obtain the surveillance coverage needed in the case of an imagined future conflict between the US and Iran, recommending at least 16 more drones in the broader Middle east region.
It further considered other uses for the Global Hawk, including maritime operations and border security, and recommended the Pentagon purchase a total of 157 of the unmanned aircraft.
The Global Hawk is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the US arsenal with an estimated price tag of around $220 million. With new upgrades, the drone is costs significantly several times the original $15.3 million price projected by Northrop Grumman in 1999.
On Friday, the IRGC put onto display the wreckage of the American spy drone, which had been retrieved from Iran's territorial waters.
The unmanned US aircraft had been taken down by Iran's indigenous Khordad 3 air defense system after it breached the country's airspace and began gathering intelligence and spying.
Military experts say the loss of the RQ-4A Global Hawk will hurt the US “quite a lot.”
“This isn’t a throwaway drone whose loss the US will just shrug off,” said Ulrike Franke, a drone expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, who described the RQ-4A as a flying “data hoover.”
It’s not just the price tag that makes the loss of this drone a big deal. The drone is designed to be harder to hit, she said, because it flies at altitudes beyond the reach of many air defense systems.
"Drones commonly refer to the small, unmanned aerial vehicles seen crisscrossing local skies — but the US military’s RQ-4A Global Hawk shot down by Iran bears little resemblance to its buzzing brethren," the New York Post said.