As Iran missiles battered Iraq base, US lost eyes in sky

AFP Tehran, Esfahan, Iran Jan 15, 2020, 07.31 AM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

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They included MQ-1C Gray Eagles, advanced surveillance drones that can fly for as long as 27 hours and carry a payload of up to four Hellfire missiles.

Moments after volleys of Iranian missiles began to batter Iraq's Ain al-Asad airbase, US soldiers at the desert facility lost contact with their ultra-powerful -- and expensive -- eyes in the sky.

At the time the attack was launched at 1:35 am on January 8, the US army was flying seven unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Iraq to monitor bases where US-led coalition forces are deployed.

They included MQ-1C Gray Eagles, advanced surveillance drones that can fly for as long as 27 hours and carry a payload of up to four Hellfire missiles.

"We thought it may lead to a ground assault, so we kept the aircraft up," said one of the pilots, 26-year-old Staff Sergeant Costin Herwig.

Herwig was flying a Gray Eagle when the first Iranian missile struck the base, retaliation for the January 3 killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.