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Iran shooting down US military drone highlights limitations of the unmanned aircraft, vulnerability to air defences

Washington: US drones have been a key tool in conflicts against insurgent organisations such as the Taliban and the Islamic State group, but Iran’s downing of one of the aircraft highlights their limitations against more sophisticated adversaries.

While drones offer the significant attraction of not putting American lives at risk and can stay aloft for more than a day, allowing for extended surveillance missions, they can be vulnerable to air defences, are often expensive, and their loss can lead to sensitive hardware falling into the wrong hands.

American drones “are generally not stealthy, they are generally not aerodynamically impressive”, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at Brookings Institution.

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