Home » Aviation » UPDATED: Iranian Drone Harasses F/A-18E Super Hornet Preparing to Land on USS Nimitz


UPDATED: Iranian Drone Harasses F/A-18E Super Hornet Preparing to Land on USS Nimitz

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in July 2017. US Navy photo.

This post has been updated to include U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s official statement on the incident.

An Iranian drone harassed an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to USS Nimitz (CVN-68) operating in the Central Persian Gulf today, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command confirmed today.

Around 1 p.m. local time today, an Iranian QOM-1 unmanned aerial vehicle flew at the Super Hornet and came within 100 feet vertically and 200 feet laterally, NAVCENT said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. The Super Hornet maneuvered to avoid colliding with what a Navy official told USNI News was a drone of about about 14 feet by 26 feet.

The official added that the Super Hornet, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, was operating in international air space at the time of the incident.

According to the NAVCENT statement, “despite repeated radio calls to stay clear of active fixed-wing flight operations in vicinity of USS Nimitz, the QOM-1 executed unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes in the close vicinity of an F/A-18E in a holding pattern preparing to land on the aircraft carrier.” Fixed-wing planes typically line up in a “stack” before making a final approach and landing on an aircraft carrier. In this formation, each aircraft flies a circle around the carrier but at different altitudes, and when the lowest-flying plane goes in for a landing, each remaining plane steps down to a lower-altitude flight pattern.

This incident was first reported by CNN.

The following is U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s full statement on the incident:

While operating in international airspace in the Central Arabian Gulf, an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) had an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with an Iranian QOM-1 unmanned aerial vehicle Aug. 8.

Despite repeated radio calls to stay clear of active fixed-wing flight operations in vicinity of USS Nimitz, the QOM-1 executed unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes in the close vicinity of an F/A-18E in a holding pattern preparing to land on the aircraft carrier. The F/A-18E maneuvered to avoid collision with the QOM-1 resulting in a lateral separation of approximately 200 feet and a vertical separation of approximately 100 feet. The dangerous maneuver by the QOM-1 in the known vicinity of fixed wing flight operations and at coincident altitude with operating aircraft created a collision hazard and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.

This is the 13th unsafe and/or unprofessional interaction between U.S. and Iranian maritime forces in 2017.

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Categories: Aviation, News & Analysis, U.S. Navy
Megan Eckstein

About Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is a staff writer for USNI News. She previously covered Congress for Defense Daily and the U.S. surface navy and U.S. amphibious operations as an associate editor for Inside the Navy.

  • Ctrot

    Should have shot it down, period.

    • NavySubNuke

      Agreed – it was a threat and it made a threatening maneuver that risk the safety of the F-18 involved — that drone should be in the water right now.

    • MikeyKid🌟•°A

      I don’t get this.. They’d have crashed our plane and killed our pilot, if they could’ve & yet we do nothing but track the damn thing..

      You’d think 17 close encounter provocations by Iran in 2017 alone, they gotta already be itching for an opportunity to unload on something.. especially an unmanned QOM-1.. this is crap.. give em the go ahead already..

    • A7MAN

      Did it not dawn on anyone yet that a strategic decision was consciously made NOT to shoot it down? Are you guys all playing checkers or Shoots and Ladders over here??

      Iran wins in every way if we shoot down their drone. We waste a missile worth 10 times what the drone costs; Iran and their allies get a big PR win in the he-said-she-said of what went down after the fact; and they get to feed their domestic audience another line about arrogant American aggression and how they should restart their nuclear program in the face of a renewed threat. This is classic Quds.

      And what would we get out of it exactly? We shot down one utterly expendable, disposable-by-design, easily replaceable piece of equipment? Just so we can show them who has the biggest ding-dong? So all the geopolitical armchair quarterbacks will think we’re not “weak?” As if they won’t keep trolling us with drones just because we shot one of them down? Because ‘Murica?

      Come on…

      • muzzleloader

        Can you read? That utterly worthless drone you describe caused a carrier plane to have to take evasive maneuvering. What if there had been a collision? Are you ok with the prospect of a $100 million dollar asset and and a pilot possibly lost because of an Iranian drone? Are you ok with our forces being routinely harrased?

        • A7MAN

          It happens all the time. They were aware of its presence and any aviator worth their salt (which I happen to think all of them are) is going to be situatuonally aware enough to avoid it. Which he or she did. Which they have done 13 other times in recent history.

          I am extremely aware of what’s going on in Iran, what the stakes are in the Strait of Hormuz, and the myriad potential consequences of a miscalculation. So, please, spare me the hysterical “wake up.” Wisdom is the better part of valor.

          • muzzleloader

            Yes it happens a lot. 13 times this year according to the press releases. Why should American forces operating in international air/ sea space be harrased in potentially dangerous ways and not respond? If the Russian Kuznetsov group was in a like situation, you know full well they would not tolerate it.

          • Jonesy

            A7MAN is right on the mark. React violently and you guarantee that there will be 10 drone ‘events’ tomorrow. Then 100 the day after. They goad you into escalation after escalation until they have painted you as the belligerent party who must be excluded from their local waters. Then the mines start rolling out into the Hormuz and you’re shut out of the gulf….unless you want to land troops at Bandar Abbas. The Russians would tolerate it as well….because they’re not stupid either.

          • Rocco

            React violently! So do we play chicken or cat & mouse??? We do nothing we still look like fools!! Sooner or later the playground bully will take a hit!

          • Jonesy

            Only a fool wouldn’t see the trap that the Iranians are trying to lure you in to.

            Would you rather look like idiots or worry that idiots will think you chicken?.

          • Rocco

            What trap dude!! I’m not Stupid nor do I like to be called a fool

          • Jonesy

            Dont act like one then. The trap has already been described I’m not explaining it again.

          • Rocco

            😤😤

          • muzzleloader

            Have you heard of Operation Praying Mantis that occurred in 1988? The US reacted “violently”, and Iran did not dare provoke American forces in the straits for two decades. And no troops were landed at Bandar Abbas.

          • Jonesy

            Do you even know what triggered Praying Mantis?. Cant you see its exactly the kind of aggression the Iranians showed occupying those platforms, requiring an armed response, that the Iranians are trying to goad you into?.
            This cant be any clearer….if you shoot up their fast boats then the day after there will be a flotilla of such craft trying to provoke you again. If you shoot down a UAV the next day there will be a dozen swarming around. They will have gotten a rise out of you and they will keep pushing in your face until you do lash out righteously and hit UAV launch sites or small boat basing facilities. Then you are the threat to regional stability, you are the aggressors who’ve gone too far and you must be shut out of the Gulf for the safety of all. Remember they can have the Hormuz straits sewn up tight whenever they want – they just need a pretext to do it. More fool you if you escalate your way to giving them it!.

      • KZMike

        AGREE. . Easy for others to shout out a knee jerk response. . . Hoping it we won’t have a knee jerk response from Jersey on another hot spot

        • A7MAN

          Too right on Jersey. That’s what’s keeping me up at night lately.

          • El Kabong

            Keep your head in the sand…

      • El Kabong

        Or use a few rounds of 20mm… C’mon now, think!

        • A7MAN

          The cost of the missile is only one (relatively minor) part of the calculus that must be considered in what could quickly escalate into an international incident. 20mm guns are not some genius solution that somehow only you thought of. This isn’t a Jane’s sim, there are consequences beyond the immediate.

          • El Kabong

            Escalate?

            You mean like interfering with aircraft?

            Genius, you’re not.

      • Steve Harris

        At that range the phalanx would have been appropriate choice of anti aircraft, not a missile.

        • Rocco

          Agreed but in close proximity to our jet maybe not!!

      • b2

        Ok, I see your “argument” vice the hard-kill approach most of us espouse.
        However, why publicize it from CENTCOM to boot…. to most Americans their Navy appears weak and victim-like. I don’t like that… Embarrassing.

        • A7MAN

          When you’re the most dangerous man in the room, it pays to look like the victim sometimes. There’s no danger of anyone who knows what’s really what thinking we’re actually weak. Some of the more insecure domestic elements notwithstanding.

          Real power requires restraint.

          • El Kabong

            Real power sometimes needs to be demonstrated to those too clueless to take a hint.

            Go read up on Op. Praying Mantis.

      • Rocco

        So where do we draw the line??

        • A7MAN

          Where it benefits us more than them. Where the rewards outweigh the risks. Wherever the level-headed professionals who deal with these things and have first-hand, real-time information about such incidents calculate we should draw the line.

          • Rocco

            What reward (s), is this??? To continually be harassed !!! Because we exist??. At some point being level headed will get someone killed. Then what we shrug it off as an unfortunate incident!! Please don’t try to patronize me.
            Not in agreement here. I don’t know to what capacity of your avatar A7Man you may be but mine says it all. I shared Flight decks with Navy jets from the 60’s ,70’s & early 80’s
            I’m tried of snacks on the hands saying bad boy!!! Like Obama!!! Please. Get a spine dude!!

          • A7MAN

            Discretion is not cowardice. Restraint is not weakness. Reaction is not strength.

            We’ll have to agree to disagree and pray that those currently making the decisions are better informed than either of us.

          • Rocco

            Agreed I was gonna tell you the same thing. Even though you mean well , your mind set & views are too conservative! Being better informed yes…. hope they act with do diligence!!!

          • A7MAN

            Too conservative? Nobody’s ever told me that before…

      • Pablo Jay

        What A7MAN said.
        I would also expand on it.
        If the USN shoots down a pesky Iranian drone, what does the Donald Cook do in the Baltic the next time an SU-24 buzzes it 30 feet over the bridge wing?
        What if a PLAAF SU-30 buzzes a P-8 in the SCS, do you want to shoot that down too?
        It paints the US into a corner it cannot get out of and a place it may never have wanted to be in the first place.
        Not shooting that drone down is called controlling the narrative, thats a position of strength.

        • A7MAN

          Five stars for you, sir. I was worried we had turned into a nation of trigger-happy reactionaries. You just made my day.

    • Danger_Dan

      Agree! Shooting it down would be a non-incident. We shot down several Iranian drones over Iraqi airspace during OIF. During the Balkans conflicts of the 1990’s the Bosnian Serbs used to routinely shoot down NATO drones (Prior to IFOR presence). Tactical drones are expendable. If they pose a risk, or are in violation of international rules, or norms, they should be neutralized.

      • Duane

        Yup – just kill it.

      • Rocco

        Not to mention over Syria!

    • El Loco

      They will continue to push the envelope until they start taking American lives. You don’t need to expend an AIM-54 to down the drone. The neighborhood bully keeps picking on everyone he can until he gets poked on the eye. That’s the only thing the bully understands.

      • A7MAN

        I agree with you about the bully. Bullies need bloodied. But in this case I think it’s less bullying than it is harassing. Even the hardliners in Tehran know better than to “start taking American lives.” That would trigger a response none of them eant or are prepared for.

        • El Kabong

          You seem to be as memory deficient as the Iranians.

          Operation Praying Mantis.

          Look it up.

      • Ken N

        We wouldn’t be able to expend an AIM-54 anyway. They were withdrawn from service about 13 years ago.

  • b2

    Not really sure what to make of this story… Seems like more “victim-hood” like the Air to Air intercepts from CHICOMS/Rooskies on our recon/ASW aircraft the past couple years… Go back to Cold War rules, this happened all the time…IE- Do something…take some action. Exhibit some leadership! Almost embarrassing reading this…
    Seems to me an unmanned drone flying within the CCZ as this story alludes and the safety hazards they present to should be a US Navy soft/hard kill upon entry to the “Zone” and that’s it… from any country and especially from our enemies. No warnings and no “heartfelt compelling radio calls”…
    b2

    • GreenEmUp

      Agree. I remember a Kresta 2 class cruiser taking station just under the downwind leg of the Forrestal, circa ’78. Everyone recovering cheerfully dumped fuel over the nice wooden decks.

      • El Kabong

        Or ‘jettison’ some ordnance….

      • Rocco

        Hey I was on the Fid!!

  • NavySubNuke

    Competence — and by that I mean Trump allowing competent folks like Mattis and the rest of DoD to run the show rather than Obama and amateurs like Rhodes directing every move DoD made.

    • John Locke

      LOL!!

      • Marcd30319

        It warms the heart to see someone with such a sense of humor … about themselves.

      • publius_maximus_III

        We do miss that old CinC of the Marine CORPSE.

  • sferrin

    Apparently you should spend less time race-baiting and more time trying to comprehend what’s being written. (Then again I would expect no less from a hard-left regressive.)

  • Ed L

    Instead of a shoot down, maybe a flip of a wingtip?

    • Paul 2

      Like the Brits did with the V-1 flying bomb.

      • Ed L

        except use the A-10 or another drone

        • muzzleloader

          A-10? Plenty of firepower right on that carrier!

    • FelixA9

      Why risk denting a plane?

  • Hi Wayne

    Shoot that motherf*cker down

  • DefTactics

    This a bunch of crap ! Any foreign aircraft in that close proximity of our aircraft carrier is dangerous and potentially lethal.That drone should have never gotten that close to the Super Hornet. The picket ships i.e. Air Defence Cruiser or Destroyer should have taken out the drone.Where was the alert air cover ?I know that the Persian Gulf is tight to operate in but this is inexcusable !The Irianians are flying close to the aircraft so we won’t risk hitting the Super Hornet.It’s time to kick some Iranian a:: ! Unless you swat down the mosquitoes and kill them they keep coming back !

    • Rocco

      Under the radar!! So small it has the radar profile of a bird probably

  • Oldnavy

    Shoot ’em down. They’ll take the hint.

  • muzzleloader

    “This is the 13th unsafe interaction with Iranian and US maritime forces in 2017”. It is clear that Iran will continue this harassment of our naval forces as long as they can get away with it, and they are. What is in the thinking of the military leadership I don’t know, but this cannot be allowed to continue. One burst of 20mm would send a message: KNOCK IT OFF. If the mullahs want to escalate after that, bring it on.

    • Rocco

      Agreed

  • Blain Shinno

    what’s the downside of shooting it down?

    • publius_maximus_III

      The ocean.

      • Rocco

        Lol!!

  • philips66

    thanks for stopping by, your comment is very productive and thought provoking… IDIOT

  • Pete Herrera

    It’s time to start shooting these guys down

  • Honkythecracker

    Too bad America has started 3 or four conflicts unnecessarily , or they could have done something about it….

    • El Kabong

      Too bad you’re so ignorant of the facts.

    • Rocco

      Go eat a cracker!! Jackwagon

      • Honkythecracker

        I’m would but I’m eating some yellow cake I got from sadam hussein.. it’s why we couldn’t find any over there in Iraq… just sand and oil

        • Rocco

          I rest my case!!

          • Honkythecracker

            There were less terrorists in the work wit my boy sadam. How ever he like to start conflicts too

          • Rocco

            GFYS

  • USAmerican100

    Open fire! Guns!

    • Refguy

      Maybe taxiing to the hot-gun area and clearing the gun after a shoot down is too much trouble.

  • Evan

    Wrong website, liberrat.

  • SFC Steven M Barry USA RET

    But it’s OK for the USS Nimitz to harass Iran./ S//

    • Rocco

      Seriously!! The you should join them!!

      • SFC Steven M Barry USA RET

        I think any country that refuses to be smeared by the US’ filthy political system is to be admired./ S//

        • Rocco

          I could care less what you think!!! GFYS!!!

    • A7MAN

      Nimitz isn’t “harassing Iran.” It’s ensuring open access to international waters, protecting sea lanes for free trade, and ensuring compliance of a treaty Tehran put its name on.

      I don’t know where your cynicism about the “US’s filthy political system” smearing anyone came from, but we operate in the area legally and in support of our allies in the region.

      If you take issue with that then you should write your representatives instead of trolling the good people here.

      Edit: Nevermind. I can tell from your posts “retracting and renouncing” the Constitution, advocating for “putting negroes on reservations” and spewing constant hate for “the Jews” that you’ve long ago abandoned your country. Whatever happened, I hope you find your way back home.

  • scottled

    A situation such as this might present an opportunity of a different sort. Yes, the UAV was a hazard to navigation, and under most ROE it should have been considered expendable when in unsafe proximity to the manned aircraft in the pattern. But a kinetic kill would represent a propaganda victory to the aggressors, and we certainly don’t need to hand them an easy “victory,” even if symbolic. But what about a soft kill using RFI jamming, or the new directed energy weapons we see written about. Even just break the data link and/or prevent it from engaging in its RTB program, thus making it go into the drink. I bet a Growler could play havoc with the on-board avionics.

    • Hugh

      Agree.

    • Rocco

      Kudos!!

  • publius_maximus_III

    Could a helicopter drop a cargo net over it? Sort of interfere with its flight operations the way it interfered with ours?

  • graylens

    give the iranians a warning, then if they fail to remove the drone shot it down. Protect our pilots and planes. If their patrol craft get too close warn them and sink them. They are pushing the envelope to see how far they can push us. Enough, force and strength they understand. We should establish certain perimeters, 1 for warning one for destruction of their craft

  • Stephen Smith

    Nothing has been said about the drone being tracked by a shooter. If the drone was not being tracked by someone with guns or missiles the drone operator could have suddenly diverted it to hit the carrier before anyone could react to shoot it down. What is say that a drone does not have an explosive or chemical warhead on board? They keep flying drones like this until the Americans become complacent, then strike is another tactic. In addition, the drone operator could decide on his own to “strike the infidel”. The Iranian government can then claim the operator acted on his own.

    • Rocco

      Provocation has its consequences!!

  • F-4

    I appreciate A7MAN’s point of view. But in my opinion he is over thinking this one (strategy, really?). If the F-18 had to maneuver to avoid a drone then splash the drone. Last time I checked the F-18 had a pretty nice gun as standard equipment (unlike my F-4) and would not have had to waste an AIM. The Iranians were sending a message and a challenge with their drone. I say: “send ’em one back”

    • Rocco

      Lol copy that!! Or my F-4J-S

    • A7MAN

      That’s definitely possible. But it’s a bad time and place for bets which, even if won, have very little payoff.

  • old guy

    We should declare “Guns Free” on all drones within a mile of a carrier

    • Rocco

      Agreed

  • old guy

    They are still living in a dream world established with our one time Coward-in-Chief.

  • Bo

    And, why wasn’t the Iranian drone splashed? Most likely because of overly-restrictive ROE and command not delegating down enough authority.

  • omegatalon

    This is just insanity.. the F/A-18 has a 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A2 Vulcan nose-mounted rotary cannon, 412 rounds; just shoot the drone down. Trump should just order a first strike on Iran.. do to them what they want to do to us and the best part is that no one will mourn for the Iranians because everyone hates them and has been beefing up their defense because of Iran.

  • Dave Lacey

    Time to announce one mile free-fire zone around all U.S. assets. Advance notice to all to proceed at own risk.

  • Doug Packer

    Splash it!

  • Hugh Merrill

    Gee whiz, where’s CWIS when you need it?

  • RobM1981

    Shoot it down or shut up. Those are your choices. Whining about it to the “international community” does nothing but make you look like you are whining.

    If it wasn’t illegal, then shut up.

    It it’s illegal, then shoot it down.

    If you aren’t capable of shooting it down, then give me back my tax dollars.

    It’s just that simple.

  • Pablo Jay

    I disagree , they would cry like the babies they are about it and demand compensation at the UN.

  • John B. Morgen

    Next time if it happens again, shoot the bloody drone down or disable it by jamming the drone’s operating signal.

  • robertibaker

    Hello, Just wondering, I’m pretty sure there were multiple EW assets nearby, including on the fighter being harrassed. Why not just jam the drone’s link, forcing it into automanous mode, allowing it to wander off or ditch? We would not need to use any of the more sophisticaed EW techniques, a few Kilowatts of broadband noise would probably render the toy quite deaf.

    • old guy

      Excellent idea, if the drone is not autonomous. However, many are. Better to just shoot it down. They are, for the most part, slow and vulnerable.

  • El Kabong

    Denying the facts, isn’t helping your credibility.

    Or lack thereof…

    Perhaps, you can explain the reasoning for a country interfering in the rights of another country to operate in international waters and airspace?

    Some critical thinking before you accuse someone of historical ignorance might go a long way in the future.

  • bruceapilot

    This is what the Phalanx is for.

  • old guy

    I AM A WW2 VET. The wusses gave us “Rules of engagement”, for the Korean war; assuring that we would NEVER win another war. ( incidentally, we are still at war with N. korea. We have an armistice but no peace treaty.”). All incursions should have a pre-set plan of response, and we should announce it and stick to it.
    My friend had command of the 5th fleet, in the Iraq war. Hussein asked for ROE. His classic response was,”YOU FLY, YOU DIE.”. 4 words grounded Hussein’s air force.

  • El Kabong

    “Caps Lock”, please….

  • Centaurus

    Should have cruse missile’d the launcher site…X 10