Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed US drone in the Gulf last week and missed, the Pentagon said Thursday, warning that the United States stood ready to protect its forces in the region.
“They intercepted the aircraft and fired multiple rounds,” spokesman George Little told a news conference.
The US military plane was “never in Iranian air space” and came under fire on November 1 from SU-25 fighters off the Iranian coast over international waters, he said.
The robotic plane was conducting “routine surveillance” and the United States has told Iran it has no plans to suspend the flights, he said.
“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,” he said.
In a warning to Tehran the Pentagon spokesman said the United States was prepared to safeguard its forces.
“We have a wide range of options from diplomatic to military to protect our military assets and our forces in the region and will do so when necessary,” Little said.
The MQ-1 Predator, a turboprop plane that flies at a much slower speed than the fighter jets, was pursued further by the Iranian warplanes but not fired on again. The Predator later returned safely to an unspecified military base in the region, Little said.
The Predator was intercepted about 16 nautical miles (30 km) off the Iranian coast, beyond Iran’s territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles (22 km) off the country’s shore, he added.