Reports surfaced Friday that Iran flew a drone over a U.S. aircraft carrier and took pictures of it as part of a naval exercise.
Iran state television carried the report of the drone flight, according USA Today, and also published footage of the flight on its website. The semi-official Fars news agency also reported on the incident and published the footage, adding that Iran also deployed a submarine near the U.S. aircraft carrier to film video of it and gather intelligence.
Video has been circulated on social media that appears to show the drone flying over the U.S. vessel.
Footage –released by Fars– of Iranian drone flying over US carrier. US says, it was “abnormal and unprofessional.” pic.twitter.com/pIsQSfNZ97
— varujean avanessian (@pandagulu) January 29, 2016
Iran Army drone takes footage of US aircraft carrier in Persian Gulf in drill pic.twitter.com/L0QYIItw7I
— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) January 29, 2016
“The Iranian submarine managed to take clear pictures of the aircraft carrier without catching the attention of the staff on board,” the Fars news agency reported.
The reports did not name the U.S. aircraft carrier that was photographed by the drone. The incident reportedly occurred on Iran’s third day of naval drills.
According to the state television reports, the commander of Iran’s navy called the drone’s flight a “sign of bravery” and said that it “allowed 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.”
Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, told USA Today that an Iranian drone flew over the USS Harry S. Truman in international waters in the Persian Gulf on January 12, the same day that Iran arrested 10 American sailors after accusing them of drifting into Iranian territorial waters. Iranian military personnel held the sailors and their two naval craft overnight, later releasing images of the sailors in captivity with their weapons and equipment seized.
Stephens could not say whether the January 12 incident was the same one reported in Iranian media Friday. The spokesman said that the unarmed drone did not pose danger to the aircraft carrier but that it was “abnormal and unprofessional.”
Days later came the official implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, which is expected to release some $100 billion in sanctions relief to the country.