An Iranian drone flew over the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group last week as it was operating in the Persian Gulf.
But what the Iranians probably didn’t know is that the drone itself was being closely tracked by a Navy helicopter outfitted with a crew-served machine gun.
U.S. Central Command shared a photo Saturday shot from the helicopter showing the Iranian drone flying high above the fleet with the machine gun in the foreground.
Aircraft from Dwight D Eisenhower Carrier Air Wing intercepts an Iranian UAV operating in an unsafe and unprofessional manner during aircraft carrier flight operations in the Arabian Gulf. The U.S. Navy will continue to fly and sail where international law allows. pic.twitter.com/66ojHTkrMS
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) December 2, 2023
“Iranian unmanned aircraft took unsafe and unprofessional actions near USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE) during the course of routine flight operations in international waters, Nov. 28,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The UAV was visually identified as Iranian,” Cooper added. “Its closest point of approach to IKE was approximately 1,500 yards. Multiple hails and warnings were ignored by Iran.”
“This Iranian action violated safety precautions outlined in a daily Notice to Airmen (NOTAM),” he said.
Central Command said the notice directs both manned and unmanned aircraft to stay more than 10 nautical miles from the carrier to ensure flight safety.
“This unsafe, unprofessional, and irresponsible behavior by Iran risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately,” Cooper said.
The helicopter tracking the drone was likely a SH-60 Sea Hawk, the Navy’s version of the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk.
The gun was not loaded, though that could be remedied in a matter of seconds assuming the crew had rounds on board.
Stars and Stripes reported, “The Navy didn’t say how long the drone stayed in the vicinity of Eisenhower. It also didn’t indicate if flight operations were disrupted or if the carrier or one of its escorts took actions against the drone.”
The Central Command post on Saturday came after Iran released drone video footage it said was taken Nov. 26 over the Eisenhower strike group as the ships transited the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow choke point between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
On Wednesday, the destroyer USS Carney shot down a Yemen-based drone in the southern Red Sea, according to The Navy Times.
The Carney “shot down a barrage of missiles and drones last month as well in the Red Sea,” the outlet reported.
Politico reported Monday that the Biden administration is deliberately downplaying the threat U.S. naval forces are facing in the region in an attempt to keep the conflict from spreading beyond the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
The Carney responded to “multiple distress calls on Sunday, as Houthi rebels in Yemen launched missiles and drones against three separate commercial vessels. The USS Carney fired back, taking down three unmanned aerial systems,” the report said.
Four officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, told Politico that Navy forces are under significant threat in the region, both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
“If our ships see something is coming near them or toward them, they are going to assess it as a threat and shoot it down,” one Defense Department official said.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find another time” U.S. ships have been this challenged in the region, the official added.
The Navy apparently is taking the threats seriously and responding appropriately, but the U.S. military overall is going to have to step it up if America is going to re-establish deterrence in the region.
Former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump showed “Peace through strength” is the best policy.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.