Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday rejected claims that one of its drones had flown close to an American aircraft without its lights on, blaming poor US identification systems.
It was the latest in a spate of close encounters between US and Iranian aircraft or warships in the waters of the Gulf in recent weeks that have sparked recriminations as relations sour.
“The Guards’ drone patrols… will continue in the Persian Gulf with precision, constantly and in the framework of protecting the borders of the Islamic republic of Iran and regardless of the psychological atmosphere created by alien forces,” the Guards drone unit said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.
It added that the US claims of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct were perhaps the result of “a weakness in their identification and recognition systems”.
The US Navy said on Monday that an Iranian QOM-1 drone had flown within 300 metres (1,000 feet) of an aircraft based on the carrier USS Nimitz operating in international waters in the Gulf the previous night.
“Despite repeated radio calls to establish communications and remain clear, the QOM-1’s controlling station was unresponsive and the (drone) did not use any aircraft navigation lights while it made several passes in close proximity to Nimitz and its escort ships during active flight operations, coming within 1,000 feet of US aircraft,” Navy spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey said.
The incident followed an August 8 encounter between an Iranian drone and an F/A-18E Super Hornet.
Washington said the US jet was forced to manoeuvre to avoid a collision, with the drone passing just 30 metres (100 feet) away at its closest point.
On July 28, the USS Nimitz was involved in an incident with Guards naval vessels that culminated in it scrambling a helicopter to fire warning flares.
On July 26, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shorts at a Guards vessel after the two came within (137 metres) (150 yards) of each other in disputed circumstances.
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