click photos to enlarge
File photo: USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
According to CNN:
An Iranian navy plane that approached a U.S. aircraft carrier last week was flying as low as 300 feet as it neared the USS Eisenhower, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.
The incident, first reported by CNN on Tuesday, came as Iran was beginning a series of military exercises last week meant to show off their military prowess.
The Eisenhower was on duty in the Gulf of Oman in the northern Arabian Sea, in support of the Afghanistan war efforts, when the Iranian maritime patrol aircraft flew within 1,000 yards of the vessel, according to military officials.
Adm. Gary Roughead, the top Navy officer, confirmed the April 21 incident. The Iranians were "not provocative or threatening. As long as they are professional and not threatening or reckless, it's international space," he said.
Radar on the Eisenhower and other U.S. ships in the vicinity closely tracked the Iranian aircraft as it approached the aircraft carrier to ensure it maintained a nonthreatening path, Roughead said. A senior U.S. military official said the Iranian plane was tracked by U.S. units for nearly 100 miles before it reached the Eisenhower.
The Iranian aircraft was a Fokker F27 that was unarmed, officials said. It remained in the vicinity of the Eisenhower for about 20 minutes before leaving the area, according to the senior official. The Eisenhower had just finished a series of carrier aircraft flight operations and a resupply at sea mission.
U.S. military officials continue to emphasize that recent encounters with Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf have been professional and without confrontation or problems. The U.S. Navy takes great care to try to stay out of the way of any Iranian forces in the region, officials said.
Initial reports described the Iranian aircraft as a "fighter jet," however it has subsequently been identified as a propeller-driven Fokker F-27. IRIN (Islamic Republic of Iran Navy) aviation fly the Fokker F-27-400M Troopship and F-27-600 Friendship, and sport a distinctive 3-color camo pattern. IRGCN (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy) aviation were known in the past to fly a F-27-600 Friendship, an example of which is grounded at the Tehran Aerospace Center. The IRGCN plane is painted white with grey undersides. The IRIAF and IRIAA also fly F-27s.
Above: IRIN Fokker F-27-400M Troopship
IRIAF spokesman Amir Alavi asserted that routine patrol flights are within the Iranian military's legal rights, and stated that "our planes might have passed near US ships in this corridor [Daryā-e Omman] but there would be no cause for complaint in the matter."
Other Iranian media sources emphasized that CNN was deliberately attempting to raise tensions between the US and Iran, over conduct that is considered routine in the region.
Photo: Babak at Airliners.net