German frigate “Hesse” mistakenly fires at USAF Reaper drone in Red Sea 

U.S. Navy photo

The German Ministry of Defense reported details of an incident involving the German air defense frigate “Hesse” in the operational area of the Red Sea on February 26, 2024, when the frigate encountered an unidentified drone. 

Initially, the drone’s nature and intentions were unclear, prompting the commander of the “Hesse” to engage.  

Two Standard Missile 2 surface-to-air missiles were fired to neutralize the perceived threat. However, this action proved unsuccessful. Subsequent investigation revealed that the drone in question was a United States Air Force MQ-9A Reaper drone. 

According to information gathered by the German blog ‘Augen geradeaus!,’ the lack of activation of the drone’s Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system and the failure to communicate its presence in the area to allied forces contributed to the incident. 

The German Defense Ministry confirmed that measures were promptly taken to rectify the oversight that led to the misidentification. 

Later the same day, the “Hesse” encountered and successfully neutralized two Houthi aerial drones. One was taken down using the frigate’s 76mm cannon, while the other was intercepted with the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), a surface-to-air missile system. Using these short-range weapons suggests that the two drones came relatively close to the German warship. 

The frigate “Hessen” from the German Navy is currently participating in the EU mission, Operation Aspides. The operation is a defensive maritime security mission aimed at preserving the freedom of navigation in connection with the crisis in the Red Sea. The frigate “Hessen” is expected to remain in the operational area until the end of April, while the frigate “Hamburg” is scheduled to be deployed in the second half of 2024. 

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