Iranian warplanes fired at an unarmed U.S. drone in international airspace last week but did not hit the aircraft, the Pentagon said on Thursday, an unprecedented incident that triggered a sharp warning to Tehran through diplomatic channels.
The Pentagon said the November 1 intercept appeared to be the first time Tehran has fired at an unmanned American aircraft, in this case an MQ-1 "Predator."
According to details provided by the Pentagon, two Iranian SU-25 "Frogfoot" aircraft intercepted the American drone at about 4:50 a.m. ET (8:50 a.m. British time) as it conducted a routine, but classified, surveillance mission about 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coast.
Little said the aircraft fired multiple rounds at the Predator drone and followed it for at least several miles as it moved farther away from Iranian airspace.
"We believe that they fired at least twice and made at least two passes," he said.
International airspace begins after 12 nautical miles and Little stressed that at no point did the drone enter Iranian airspace.
The United States sent Iran a warning through diplomatic channels about the November 1 intercept, saying it would defend its military assets and would keep sending aircraft on such surveillance operations ( via uk.reuters.com ).
"There is absolutely no precedence for this," Little said. "This is the first time that a (drone) has been fired upon to our knowledge by Iranian aircraft."