Iranian military personnel participate in war games in an unknown location near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran over the weekend reportedly threatened to shoot down two US military surveillance aircraft operating in the Persian Gulf near the Islamic Republic.
Fox News cited three US defense officials close to Saturday's incident as saying the two aircraft were flown by members of the US Navy 13 miles off of Iran's coast.
The reconnaissance mission was said to have taken place in the Strait of Hormuz, one mile beyond Iran's territorial waters that according to international maritime law extend 12 miles into the sea.
“It’s one thing to tell someone to get off your lawn, but we weren’t on their lawn,” one US official told Fox. “Anytime you threaten to shoot someone down, it’s not considered professional.”
According to the officials, Iran at some point issued the threat during the flights in international airspace of the nine-person crewed P-8 Poseidon aircraft and the 24-member crewed EP-3 Aries reconnaissance aircraft.
The Iranian military warned the American planes that they posed the risk of getting shot down if they did not change course.
However, the officials told Fox that the US aircraft ignored the Iranian order and went on with their flights.
When asked why the US aircraft were operating near Iran, one US official told Fox that "we wanted to test the Iranian reaction."
The reported incident came as US officials have said that there have been more than 30 close encounters
with Iranian vessels in the Gulf so far this year - more than double the amount from the same period last year.
On September 4, a US Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after a fast-attack craft from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 100 yards (91 meters) in the central Gulf, at least the fourth such incident in less than a month.
The head of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said last month that unsafe maneuvers in the Gulf were part of Iranian efforts to exert its influence in the region.Reuters contributed to this report.