US – Iran tensions escalate in latest drone incident

With already heightened tensions between US and Iranian military elements operating in the Persian Gulf, the situation came closer to direct military engagement on March 12 after an Iranian fighter jet attempted to intercept a US Predator drone as it flew over international waters near the Gulf of Oman. This marks the latest incident between US and Iranian aerial assets in the region, which have surged since last November.

More details from CNN, which first reported the incident:

Defense Department spokesman George Little said on Thursday the unmanned MQ-1 drone was conducting routine classified surveillance over international waters on Tuesday when approached by an Iranian F-4.

The two aircraft came within 16 miles of each other.

The American drone was escorted by two US military aircraft, which remained over international waters, Little said, adding that the Iranian jet departed after a verbal warning.

Although the incident ended without shots fired, Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to use force against incursions into Iranian territory and perceived violations of its airspace. “To cross into our airspace, they should first of all be able to disorient our defense systems. Those who will cross into our airspace will receive a sharp counterblow, taking into consideration the capabilities of Iran’s Armed Forces in defending the borders of our country,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Dec. 13.

Iranian concerns over incursions into its airspace and overflights of its territory by Western and Israeli forces have spiked since November. On Nov. 1, Iranian aerial assets fired several missiles at a US drone but missed, near Kargh Island, located in the Persian Gulf approximately 16 miles off the coast of Iran. A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi threatened that Iran would take legal action against the US in international courts over its “drone incursion” into Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.

In early December, Iranian Republican Guard naval elements claimed to have captured an American Scan Eagle drone near Khargh Island, and later broadcast images of the drone. American military officials vehemently denied the loss of any drone assets in the Persian Gulf [see Threat Matrix, Iranian regime broadcasts video of ‘captured’ US drone].

Previously, Iran claimed to have captured an advanced Lockheed Martin RQ-170 reconnaissance drone, in December 2011. American officials later conceded that an RQ-170, which is known as the ‘Beast of Kandahar,’ had lost contact with its controllers somewhere over western Afghanistan. Video images of the captured drone were quickly produced, like those of the Scan Eagle, and raised a series of questions over Iran’s claims that it had “spoofed” the communications relay of the RQ-170 and safely guided the aircraft down to an undisclosed Iranian airfield. In that video, the underbelly of the aircraft remained covered and the wings appeared to have been reattached, suggesting that the Iranians had located a downed RQ-170 that most likely crashed inside Iranian territory.

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  • Will Fenwick says:

    I think its just a matter of time before their is a dogfight between US and Iranian fighter craft over the Gulf.

  • mike merlo says:

    as Iran continues to become ever more deeply involved in Syria ‘tickling/teasing’ their domestic
    Air Defense matrix is just one more welcomed ‘stress point’ on their ‘efforts’ to ‘organize’ themselves

  • gb says:

    More of the same from Iran. Makes one wonder what the purpose of the coastal recon is. Purhaps they are gathering recent imagery for impending strikes in coordination with Israel. There are some recent media reports claiming the the IDF believes that Iran may have an offensive nuclear weapons capability within a years time.

  • irebukeu says:

    We should bring those escorts home and do the same thing the Iranians are doing-Sending out planes to snoop on those that fly up and down our coast looking for weaknesses in our defenses.
    How long can Iran be played as the boogeyman?
    We destroy their enemy on their western border and Iraq emerges as a nominal ally,
    We attempt to destroy the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    Whats next, the occupation of Saudi Arabia?
    @Will – I agree, with all the incursions into Iranian airspace involving American aircraft its only a matter of time before something bad happens.
    @Mike- let them get involved deeper. Someone has to fight the foreign Jihadists in Syria. Assad needs help defeating them. The US seems to be helping to equip the Jihadists not killing them so its going to fall on Bassar and his allies to defeat them there.
    @gb In 1993 there were media reports out of Israel that Iran would have a bomb in 15 months time. I seem to remember ‘Bibi’ saying in 1992 that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in 5 years.
    There’s nothing new to these stories, they come around every year and I will wait for the CIA or US state department to announce that they think Iran has a weapon.


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