A Navy unmanned helicopter that crashed over Libya in June was likely shot down by forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi, a Navy spokesman said.
An investigation revealed no evidence of a mechanical or operator error in the June 21 crash. The MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter was likely shot down during an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, said 6th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton.
Other details, including what type of weapon brought the aircraft down, were not available.
Investigators were not able to examine the wreckage or the crash site, Walton said.
Shortly after the incident, NATO and U.S. officials said the Fire Scout lost contact with its command center before crashing. Walton acknowledged that communication was lost, but it could have been due to the attack that brought the UAV down.
The Fire Scout, which was operating over Libya’s central coast, was the first military hardware lost since NATO took over operations in the African country March 31. While the campaign was led by U.S., British and French forces earlier this year, an Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle crashed. Crew members ejected safely and were rescued.
The Fire Scout was part of a two-aircraft detachment aboard the frigate Halyburton. The two aircraft, which had a special configuration for missions over Libya, took the place of two other Fire Scouts that originally deployed on the frigate and flew 10 to 15 missions over the country. After the loss, the Navy sent over a replacement UAV. Halyburton returned to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., on Wednesday after a seven-month deployment.