Ira­nian drone threat­ened U.S. fighter as it tried to land on an air­craft car­rier

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - By An­dre De­grap­nd­pre Wash­ing­ton Post

U.S. military of­fi­cials say an Ira­nian drone ha­rassed and nearly col­lided with a Navy at­tack jet Tues­day as it pre­pared to land on an air­craft car­rier in the Per­sian Gulf.

The two air­craft — an Ira­nian QOM-1 and a U.S. F/A-18E Su­per Hor­net — came within 100 feet of one an­other as the Su­per Hor­net cir­cled above the USS Nimitz, of­fi­cials said, not­ing the pi­lot was forced to make a sud­den ma­neu­ver to avoid crash­ing into the drone.

Take­offs and land­ings at sea are in­her­ently dan­ger­ous un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, re­quir­ing ex­treme con­cen­tra­tion and pre­ci­sion to avoid calamity. Tues­day’s in­ci­dent, which oc­curred in in­ter­na­tional airspace, U.S. of­fi­cials said, is an un­set­tling de­vel­op­ment for that rea­son, and it marks the lat­est in a se­ries of threat­en­ing en­coun­ters be­tween the two mil­i­taries.

In a state­ment, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand de­clared the in­ci­dent “un­safe and un­pro­fes­sional,” call­ing it was a breach of in­ter­na­tional mar­itime cus­toms and laws. It’s the Navy’s 13th such run-in with Ira­nian military forces this year, of­fi­cials said.

It’s un­clear whether the drone was armed or if Ira­nian military of­fi­cials com­mu­ni­cated with the Amer­i­cans, who say they made re­peated ra­dio calls warn­ing the drone’s op­er­a­tor to keep away.

In re­cent months, U.S. jets oper­at­ing in Syria have shot down armed Ira­nian drones that moved too close to Amer­i­can ground troops.

There have been nu­mer­ous close calls in­volv­ing U.S. and Ira­nian ves­sels at sea.

This lat­est en­counter comes two weeks af­ter the crew on a Navy pa­trol boat fired at an Ira­nian military ship that had come within 150 yards of the Amer­i­cans in the Per­sian Gulf.

Last year, the Pentagon doc­u­mented 35 hos­tile in­ter­ac­tions with Ira­nian forces, up from to 23 in 2015.

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