Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf last week, CNN has learned.
The incident raises fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.
The drone was in international airspace east of Kuwait, U.S. officials said, adding it was engaged in routine maritime surveillance.
…The drone’s still and video cameras captured the incident showing two SU-25s approaching the Predator and firing its onboard guns.
The Iranian pilots continued to fire shots that went beneath the Predator but were never successful in hitting it, according to the officials.
U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing down the drone. But as one of the officials said, “it doesn’t matter, they fired on us.”
How dare they! Don’t those pesky Iranians know that they were firing at an aircraft of the Divinely Mandated Most Exceptional Nation Ever?
Firing warning shots, from ground-attack aircraft, at an unmanned drone “conducting surveillance”. Surveillance of who and what, exactly? Iranian shipping, Iranian military vessels? The story doesn’t say. We know the Pentagon is saying the drone was in international airspace but we also know the US and Iran disagree on where exactly the boundaries of Iranian territory lie.
As I say, nothing here but an excuse for some outrage.
Update: Reuters – Iran said it would deal decisively with any foreign encroachment into its airspace, an apparent warning to the United States after one of its surveillance drones was targeted by Iranian warplanes last week.
Update 2: the Iranian defense minister has confirmed Iranian aircraft fired warning shots at the US drone, claiming that it was inside airspace over Iran’s 12 nautical mile territorial limit at the time and that the Iranian jets then saw the drone out of Iranian airspace.
“Last week an anonymous plane entered the space over the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf area which, due to the timely, clever and decisive action of our armed forces, was forced to flee,” Ahmad Vahidi was quoted on ISNA as saying on Friday.
The Pentagon claims the drone was 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast at the time of the incident – so we’re talking about a difference of 4 nautical miles, or just o hair over two minutes flight time for a Predator drone.