This month, the Pentagon confirmed that an Iranian attack aircraft fired on an unarmed U.S. drone on the morning of Nov. 1, 2012. Iranian leaders and lawmakers do not deny firing on the unmanned aircraft. The point of contention, the one piece that is crucial and upon which the nations cannot agree, is whether the U.S. drone was in international airspace.
U.S. officials insist the drone, a General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, was conducting “routine surveillance in international airspace over the Persian Gulf.” Officials in Iran contend that the pilotless aircraft “violated Iran’s airspace.”
“The incident occurred over international waters, approximately 16 nautical miles off of the Iranian coastline,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little explained to reporters on Nov. 9, 2012. “The internationally recognized territorial limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast, and we never entered the 12 nautical-mile limit.”
Iran’s Russian-made Sukhoi SU-25 Frogfoot warplane reportedly intercepted and followed the Predator drone, and then opened fire. According to Little, this event marked the first time an unmanned U.S. aircraft was shot at in international airspace over the Gulf.
“The aircraft, once it came under fire at approximately the 16 nautical mile range, moved further out,” Little continued. “There is absolutely no question that the aircraft fired on the U.S. military aircraft. The Iranian aircraft continued to pursue the MQ-1…before letting it return to base.”
This geek is elated that we have the technology and resources to create such innovative aircraft such as the MQ-1 that enable us to keep soldiers out of harms way.