The unit cost of the MQ-4C Triton is about $183M, more than an F-35, approximating the cost of an F-22. It is a very expensive airplane. It is not a stealth system. The loss exposes a vulnerability in the method of deployment. Although lives are not at risk, cumulative losses would represent a significant hit to the defense budget.
So the loss must be addressed, either by substitution of a different surveillance system, or by deterrent action.
This is an opportunity to review the argument for deterrent in the form of a deniable response, as discussed in Iran Fires Second Shot in New Tanker War; Counter Strategies? A suitable response would be:
- Deniable by the U.S.
- Embarrassing for Iran to admit.
- Expensive to Iran, emphasizing symmetry of loss.