An Iranian drone flew so close to a U.S. Navy jet over the Persian Gulf on Tuesday that the pilot was forced to take evasive action, according to Pentagon officials.
The drone came within 100 feet below and 200 feet to the side of an F/A-18 Hornet fighter as it was in a landing pattern several thousand feet off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The pilot maneuvered to avoid the drone, which did not appear to be armed.
After Navy personnel used an emergency radio frequency to warn the Iranian drone operators to cease their activity, the unmanned aircraft eventually backed off. Officials characterized the drone encounter as an “unsafe and unprofessional” provocation.
“The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 [drone] in the known vicinity of fixed wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws,” the CENTCOM statement said.
The incident occurred as the F/A-18 was attempting to land on the Nimitz, which had recently arrived in the Persian Gulf. Defense officials say the drone encounter is the 13th unsafe or unprofessional interaction between U.S. and Iranian maritime forces in 2017.
It is the first time an Iranian drone has “interrupted a flight pattern,” according to Fox News.
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