An Iranian QOM-1 Drone has reportedly interfered with flight operations aboard the USS Nimitz when it flew to within 100 feet of a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet as it prepared to land on the carrier.

According to a Defense Department statement, the Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle executed “unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes in the close vicinity” of the fighter jet as it made its approach to the American super carrier.  The pilot of the Super Hornet was forced to take evasive action, breaking off his approach, and missing the drone by as little as one hundred feet vertically, with a lateral separation of only 200 feet or so.  The drone was reportedly not armed.

The USS Nimitz was conducting operations in the central portion of the Persian Gulf, and the F/A-18E was reportedly flying in international airspace at the time of the incident, which U.S. Defense Officials have classified as “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 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,” CENTCOM officials said after the incident.

The USS Nimitz passed through the Strait of Hormuz en route to operational regions within the Persian Gulf last week.  As it did, the decision was made to scramble a U.S. Navy helicopter to intercept Revolutionary Guard vessels approaching the carrier at a high rate of speed.  The helicopter deployed flares to dissuade their approach, prompting a response from the Iranian government.

The Americans made a provocative and unprofessional move by issuing a warning and shooting flares at vessels …,” an official Iranian statement said of the incident. “Islam’s warriors, without paying attention to this unconventional and unusual behavior from the American vessels, continued their mission in the area and the aircraft carrier and accompanying battleship left the area.”

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According to U.S. statements, the helicopter deployed the flares after the approaching patrol boats failed to respond to attempts to engage in radio communications.  Officials went on to classify the American pilot’s behavior as both “safe and professional.”

Last month, the USS Thunderbolt was forced to fire warning shots at an armed patrol boat believed to belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, after it closed to within 150 yards of the Cyclone class patrol ship.  The U.S. Navy reportedly attempted to warn the boat away using radio communications, blowing the vessel’s steam whistle, and launching flares before ultimately firing warning shots from a .50 caliber machine gun.

“This is the 13th unsafe and/or unprofessional interaction between U.S. and Iranian maritime forces in 2017,” the statement continued.  According to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis, 2016 also so no fewer than 35 such incidents.

In June, U.S. fighters shot down two armed Iranian drones that had targeted U.S. backed militia forces in Syria, heightening tensions not only in the region, but in the narrow Strait of Hormuz U.S Navy assets must pass through en route to operations in the Persian Gulf.

 

Featured image courtesy of the U.S. Navy