On Friday, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet confirmed that recent reports of an Iranian UAV overflight of the carriers Charles de Gaulle and Harry S. Truman in international waters were accurate.
The spokesman, Commander Kevin Stephens, could not confirm the authenticity of the Iranian video footage prompting the reports, but he did give an account of an incident similar to the UAV patrol depicted.
“On the morning of January 12, an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle flew towards the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle visually identified the UAV and assessed it as being unarmed. The UAV then flew towards USS Harry S. Truman,” he said.
“Both Charles de Gaulle and Harry S. Truman were operating in international waters in the Arabian Gulf at the time. A U.S. Navy helicopter launched from Harry S. Truman also visually identified the Iranian UAV and determined that it was unarmed . . . The UAV flew directly over Harry S. Truman.”
“Because the UAV was unarmed . . . we determined that while the Iranian UAV’s actions posed no danger to the ship. It was, however, abnormal and unprofessional,” he added.
Additionally, Commander Stephens contested Iranian accounts of the timing of the incident. Iranian media reported the flyover occurring Friday, but the U.S. Navy asserted that the events happened earlier in the month.
In Washington, Navy spokesman Commander William Marks said that “we are confident in our forces’ ability to respond appropriately as the situation dictates and will defend ourselves should that prove necessary.”
The commander of Iran's navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said that the unmanned drone overflight was “a sign of bravery . . . [allowing] our men to go so close to the warship and shoot such a beautiful and accurate footage of the combat units of the foreign forces," he said, speaking to state media.
The incident adds to earlier diplomatic friction over test firing of rockets by Iranian forces in the vicinity of American naval vessels, and over Iran's capture and release of 10 American sailors who inadvertently crossed into Iranian waters due navigational error.