The incident began over a drone, and luckily, no one started shooting.
In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.
one of the two F-4 Phantom jets came to about 16 miles from the Predator, but broke off pursuit after two American planes escorting the drone broadcast a warning message.
The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.
New details about the incident disclosed by Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh at an annual conference of the Air Force Association. On Sept. 17, the general not only confirmed that the escorting fighters were F-22 stealth fighters but also said that: “He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home.’”
If the episode went exactly as Welsh described it, it was something more similar to Maverick’s close encounter with Russian MiG-28s in Top Gun than a standard interception.
It would be interesting to know how the Raptors managed to remain in stealth. Did the pilots use radar? Were they vectored by an AWACS? Why didn’t an E-2 — providing Airborne Early Warning in the area — not broadcast the message to dissuade the F-4 from pursuing the drone before the Iranian Phantoms and the U.S. Raptors came close to a potentially dangerous and tense situation?
Anyway, the U.S. pilot scared the Iranian pilots off and saved the drone. A happy ending worthy of an action movie.