WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (UPI) — Iran threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy surveillance planes that flew close to Iranian territory in the Persian Gulf last weekend, a U.S. defense official said.
A Navy P-8 Poseidon, with nine crew members, and a Navy EP-3 Eries, with about two dozen on board, were in international airspace on Saturday but “near Iranian airspace,” the official told CNN.
Three times Iranians told the planes not to enter their airspace or they risked being shot down with surface-to-air missiles, the official said.
The U.S. Navy crews said they were flying “outside the known range of Iranian air defenses” and continued their separate flight plans.
The official said the crews identified their plane as coalition aircraft in international airspace, which extends 12 miles into the sea, according to international maritime law.
“We wanted to test the Iranian reaction,” one U.S. official told Fox News. “It’s one thing to tell someone to get off your lawn, but we weren’t on their lawn. Anytime you threaten to shoot someone down, it’s not considered professional.”
Last month, U.S. Defense Department officials said the Navy’s Firebolt, which carries 30 crew, was shadowed by seven Iranian vessels — three of which came within 500 yards of the vessel for eight minutes. Two weeks earlier, U.S. naval ships were also in a similar incident in which the USS Squall fired three warning shots to ward off Iranian vessels.
“This is principally the regime leadership trying to exert their influence and authority in the region. And they are trying to do it in provocative ways,” Gen. Joe Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said on Aug. 30 at a Pentagon press briefing.
In July, Iran tried a ballistic missile test in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that is part of the nuclear agreement signed one year ago that month.