US fighter jet and Iranian drone nearly collide over the Gulf

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United States claims one of its carrier-based fighter planes operating in international airspace in the Gulf had an “unsafe and unprofessional” interaction with an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as the crafts came within 100 feet (30.5 meters) of another.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) stated that Tuesday's interaction occurred between its F-18E Super Hornet assigned to the USS Nimitz carrier and an Iranian QOM-1 UAV “despite repeated radio calls.”

“The F/A-18E maneuvered to avoid collision with the QOM-1 resulting in a lateral separation between the two aircraft of about 200 feet and a vertical separation of about 100 feet,” added the statement.

The close proximity of the two aircraft forced the US pilot to do “a roll over” the drone to avoid a collision, according to CENTCOM.
The F-18 landed safely and the UAV left without further incident.

The US says it is the 13th unsafe or unprofessional interaction between US and Iranian maritime forces in 2017.

There was no immediate statement from Iran officials.

The UAV is homegrown and called the "Saeqeh" or Thurderbolt. Iran's Tasnim news agency previously said it is capable of hitting four targets with smart bombs with "pinpoint accuracy."


A "Saeqeh" in an undisclosed location in Iran on October 1, 2016. Photo: AP

Tasnim reported the UAV was "made by reverse engineering of [an] American Lockheed Martin RQ-170" vehicle that was downed in December 2011.

Last month in international waters of the highly trafficked Gulf, a US ship fired warning shots at an Iranian-flagged vessel that US officials said came within 150 yards (about 137 meters) of the ship.

The incident comes amid continued rhetoric from Tehran and Washington, mostly centering around Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal (JCPOA) and both countries’ roles in regional affairs.

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