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.