Iranian Brig Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of the country’s air defense, said Saturday that the military will “not hesitate” to destroy U.S. spy aircraft that enter Iranian airspace.
Esmaili said in an interview Saturday with Iranian TV station al-Alam that Iran has sent two warnings to U.S. spy aircraft that came close to Iranian air space in the last six months. The most recent warning took place on Aug. 26, the Associated Press reports.
“We do not allow such rabid aircrafts to enter our territory and if necessary, will not hesitate to destroy them,” Esmaili said.
The Iranians intercepted a U.S. RQ-4 drone on Aug. 26 and in March issued warnings to a U2 reconnaissance plane.
To emphasize Iran’s ability to follow through on the threat, Esmaili added that the military has been testing its own air defense system called the Bavar-373, which is intended to match the capabilities of the Russian S-300 defense system. Iran started building the Bavar-373 in 2010, but once sanctions against the country were lifted after the 2015 nuclear deal, Russia sold Iran the S-300 system, which went live in March.
Esmaili’s hard line on Iranian airspace comes after recent reports from the U.S. side of unsafe and unprofessional military interactions.
In mid-August, the U.S. Navy chastised Iran for flying a QOM-1 drone too close to the USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf and complained about the drone not showing navigation lights or responding to radio queries. At one point, the drone came within 1,000 feet of U.S. aircraft. Less than a week prior to this incident, an Iranian drone flew within 100 feet of a Navy F/A-18, forcing the aircraft to take evasive action while it was trying to land on the Nimitz. The Nimitz arrived in the Persian Gulf in late July to assist with airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
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