Pentagon: Iran fired at US Drone
Iran fired at unarmed US drone, Pentagon says
Iran fired on an unarmed U.S. drone last week as it was hovering in international airspace, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Spokesman George Little said the incident, which marks the first time the Iranians have fired on a U.S. drone, occurred Nov. 1 at 4:50 a.m. ET. He said the unarmed, unmanned drone was conducting "routine surveillance" over the Persian Gulf when it was "intercepted" by Iran. He said the MQ1 Predator drone, which was not hit, was not in Iranian airspace.
According to Little, two Iranian jets fired twice, missing on both attempts -- the drone headed away from the Iranian coast, landing safely soon after at an undisclosed location. The Iranian jets pursued the drone for a short period before giving up.
Little said the U.S. government has protested to the Iranians. Asked about how the U.S. could respond, he said: "We have a wide range of options from diplomatic to military."
He would not say whether there were actually plans for a military response. Asked if this should be considered an act of war, Little said he didn't want to get into "legal characterizations" of the event.
Little stressed that the drone was flying 16 nautical miles off the coast of Kuwait in international waters, and never entered the 12-mile limit that would constitute Iranian territory.
The Pentagon announced the incident as the administration imposed a new round of financial sanctions against Iranian officials and entities. They marked the first sanctions since President Obama's re-election Tuesday. According to the Treasury Department, the move was "related to the Iranian government's human rights abuses, its support of terrorism and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."
The drone encounter comes after a U.S. drone crashed in Iran late last year. Iran claimed to have shot it down, but U.S. officials said it merely malfunctioned and crashed.
Little said the U.S. will continue to run surveillance missions in the region.
Fox News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report.
U.S. says Iran fired on U.S. drone over Gulf
WASHINGTON (AP) — An Iranian attack aircraft fired at least twice at an unarmed U.S. drone conducting routine surveillance in international airspace over the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said Thursday. The aircraft missed and the drone returned to base unharmed.
The shooting in the Gulf, which occurred just before 5 a.m. EDT on Nov. 1, was unprecedented, Pentagon press secretary George Little said. The incident was not disclosed sooner because the military does not discuss classified surveillance missions, but agreed to answer questions after news reports revealed the shooting.
Little said the drone was about 16 miles off the Iranian coast when the Russian-made SU-25 Frogfoot warplane intercepted it and opened fire. He said it was the first time an unmanned U.S. aircraft was shot at in international airspace over the Gulf.
"Our aircraft was never in Iranian air space. It was always flying in international air space," Little told Pentagon reporters. "The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters over the Arabian Gulf, consistent with longstanding practice and our commitment to the security of the region."
According to the Pentagon, the Iranian war plane made at least two passes by the slower-moving drone, firing "multiple rounds."
Little said that once the Predator drone came under fire, it began to move further out and the Iranian aircraft continued to pursue it "for some period of time before letting it return to base." The Iranian plane did not follow the drone all the way back to its base, Little said, declining to say where that base was.
He said there was no other U.S. aircraft nearby that could respond to the attack, and added that the U.S. believes Iran was trying to shoot the drone down.
This is the second incident involving a U.S. drone and Iran.
In December 2011 a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone equipped with stealth technology was captured in eastern Iran. Tehran claims it brought down the aircraft, but U.S. officials said the drone malfunctioned and had to land.
After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.
International waters begin at 12 nautical miles offshore.