As a US Navy F/A-18 fighter jet returned to the deck of the USS Nimitz, the aircraft carrier currently stationed in the Persian Gulf to support the US-led fight against ISIS, an Iranian drone got way too close for comfort.
"Despite repeated radio calls to stay clear," the Iranian drone went out of its way to complicate the jet's landing, Eric Pahon, Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement sent to Business Insider. The F/A-18 had to maneuver to avoid the approaching drone, missing it by around 100 feet.
The drone was unarmed, and remotely piloted. A US aircraft carrier isn't something any pilot worth his salt would not be aware of. As this was the 13th unsafe and unprofessional interaction between the US Navy and Iran's maritime forces this year, it can be assumed Iran meant to do it.
Landing a speeding aircraft on a ship at sea presents plenty of difficulty without having a marauding drone bother the pilot on approach, and this just represents one of the ways Iran tries to harass, and ultimately crash US ships and aircraft.
A single F/A-18 costs around $70 million, and sending one crashing down on an aircraft carriers flight deck could cause tremendous damage and loss of life.
In mid June, Iranian naval patrol boats sailed up to the USS Bataan, a smaller aircraft carrier, and shined a laser pointer on a helicopter in flight. There's just no reason to shine a laser pointer at another navy's helicopter unless you're trying to mess with them in a way that could easily cause a crash.
In other incidents, Iranian ships have charged US Navy vessels causing them to have to fire off flares and warning shots. In each case, the Pentagon describes the events as "unsafe and unprofessional."
When campaigning for president, Donald Trump saying that when Iranian ships that harass or make rude gestures towards the US Navy "they will be shot out of the water."
The US Navy hasn't changed its rules of engagement, and Iran's provocations remain under the threshold of lethal response, but as the harassment's increase in scale, the US must consider a response.
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