By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., AFPS, WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2012 - A recent Iranian attack on a U.S. drone occurred over international waters, but the aircraft suffered no damage and returned safely to base, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Little said the Iranian aircraft fired on the drone and followed it as it flew over the Arabian Gulf last week.
"I can confirm that on November 1, at approximately 4:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, an unarmed, unmanned MQ-1 U.S. military aircraft conducting routine surveillance over the Arabian Gulf, was intercepted by an Iranian SU-25 Frog-foot aircraft and was fired upon with guns," he said.
"The incident occurred over international waters, approximately 16 nautical miles off of the Iranian coastline," Little said. "The MQ-1 was not hit, and returned to its base safely."
Little provided further details regarding the Iranian attack.
"The aircraft, once it came under fire at approximately the 16 nautical mile range, moved further out," he said. "The Iranian aircraft continued to pursue the MQ-1 for some period of time before letting it return to base."
"We believe they fired at least twice and made at least two passes," Little added.
The press secretary confirmed both Congress and the White House were notified of the incident, and the U.S. responded to Iran through the "Swiss protective powers."
"The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters, over the Arabian Gulf, consistent with longstanding practices and our commitment to the security of the region," Little said.
Little emphasized the U.S. can respond using a "wide range of options -- from diplomatic to military -- to protect our military assets and our forces in the region, and will do so when necessary."
"Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace. It was always flying in international airspace," he said. "The internationally recognized territorial limit is 12 nautical miles off the coast, and we never entered the 12 nautical-mile limit."
Little said Defense Department officials believe this is the first time an unmanned aircraft has been shot at over international waters in the Arabian Gulf.
"There is absolutely no question that the aircraft fired on the U.S. military aircraft," he said.