US decries ‘abnormal’ Iranian flyover of its aircraft carrier

Navy spokeswoman says UAV that Tehran claimed took ‘accurate’ photos of unnamed vessel was unarmed, no threat

A US Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf (US Department of Defense)
A US Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf (US Department of Defense)

AP — The decision by Iran to fly a drone over an unnamed US aircraft carrier was “abnormal and unprofessional,” a US military official said Friday.

“The UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] was unarmed and posed no risk to the carrier’s flight operations,” said Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Nicole Schwegman in an e-mailed statement, according to Reuters.

“While the Iranian UAV’s actions posed no danger to the ship, it was, however, abnormal and unprofessional.”

The incident, made public Friday, took place on Jan. 12. Both the American carrier and a French carrier also photographed by the drone were sailing in international waters at the time, Schwegman told Reuters.

Earlier Friday, Iranian state television boasted that the surveillance drone took “precise” photographs of the American carrier as part of an ongoing naval drill.

The reported drone overflight comes after a series of naval incidents between Iran and the US in the Greater Persian Gulf, including test rocket fire by the Islamic Republic and its brief capture of American sailors who strayed into its territorial waters.

Illustrative photo of an Iranian drone (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Hemmat Khahi)
Illustrative photo of an Iranian drone (photo credit: AP/ISNA, Hemmat Khahi)

The brief report by state television did not show any of the images of the aircraft carrier reportedly photographed by the drone. A story from the state-run IRNA news agency said an Iranian light submarine closely participated in the surveillance operation.

Separately, state television said Iran’s navy successfully fired surface-to-surface Noor cruise missiles during the drill.

The Iranian report did not name the US vessel targeted. The nuclear-powered USS Harry S. Truman, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, is in the Persian Gulf region launching airstrikes and supporting operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Iran has announced other military exercises in the past to demonstrate the capabilities of its armed forces.

Iran’s navy began a naval drill this week over a 3-million-square-kilometer (1.16-million-square-mile) area including parts of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Iran said Wednesday its navy warned a US warship to leave an area of the naval drill. The US Navy later denied its operations were affected by the Iranian drill.

While Iran recently struck a nuclear deal with world powers including the US, its naval forces have continued its maneuvers. Iran has more than 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) of shoreline facing the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

The US has criticized some of those maneuvers, including what it called a “highly provocative” Iranian rocket test fire in December near its warships and commercial traffic passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran denied launching rockets, though the U.S. later released footage showing the rocket fire.

The Strait of Hormuz, which sees nearly a third of all oil traded by sea pass through it, has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988.

In January, Iranian forces captured 10 US Navy sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, an outpost in the middle of the Persian Gulf that has been used as a base for Revolutionary Guard speedboats since the 1980s. The sailors were released within a day, though Iranian state media aired footage of the sailors’ capture, angering US politicians.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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