Iran claimed it ‘refrained’ from shooting down a US spy plane with 35 on-board flying alongside its downed drone.
Air Force commander Sardar Hajizadeh alleged a Boeing P-8 spy plane with servicemen aboard was also flying with the drone in Iranian airspace as he unveiled debris in Tehran.
“With the US drone in the region there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board,” Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Guard’s Aerospace Force, was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.
“This plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not,” he said.
He ominously said it had not been attacked ‘because our goal was to warn the Americans,’ Tasnim News reported.
Hajizadeh said his forces shot down the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone 10 minutes after issuing a final warning.
There was a P-8 surveillance aircraft operating in the area at the time Iran shot down an RQ-4 yesterday, a US official tells CNN.
The plane was in international airspace, the official said.
The P-8 Poseidon — based on Boeing’s 737-800 airframe — carries anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare equipment, as well as shipping interdiction and electronic support measures.
Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari condemned the ‘imperialist arrogance’ of the U.S. flying its drone into Iranian airspace.
Iranian state TV today showed off debris from the downed spy plane, including its fuselage, but none of the secret technology contained within.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drone that costs $123 million and was designed to be largely invulnerable to attack.
Iran claimed the drone entered its airspace, but the Trump administration maintains the unmanned aircraft was operating in international airspace and characterized the incident as an “unprovoked attack.”
The incident marked the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on US assets and came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, triggered by Trump’s decision to withdraw from an international accord that curbed Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The downing of the drone was also the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf since mid-May, including suspected attacks on six oil tankers that the US blamed on Iran.