Iran claimed Friday it flew a surveillance drone over a U.S. aircraft carrier and took “precise” photographs as part of an ongoing naval drill, as Iranian TV broadcasted video purportedly demonstrating the incident.
The U.S. Navy confirmed to Fox News that an unarmed Iranian droning flew directly over the USS Harry Truman earlier this month on Jan. 12, but did not say whether it was the same incident.
That happened on the same day Iran captured 10 U.S. Navy sailors accused of “trespassing.” It also was less than a week before the U.S. and European nations lifted imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but months after their initial bargain was signed.
A video circulating on social media links between Iranian news bureaux — purportedly taken from a droning — depicts a birds eye position of an aircraft carrier are moving forward water, with multiple planes parked on its deck.
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 footage afterwards zoomed into a row of fighter jets. There were no identifying marks visible on the carrier.
“I am not in a position to confirm the Iranian video or if the event described in Iranian media reports is the one from Jan. 12, said Commander Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet based in Bahrain. As previously noted, we are confident in our ability to respond appropriately because the situation dictates and will defend ourselves should that prove necessary.”
Stephens said an unarmed Iranian drone flew near the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and “directly over” the USS Harry S. Truman on Jan. 12 as the vessels were in international waters in the Persian Gulf.
He said the drone “posed no danger to the ship” as the unmanned aircraft was unarmed and the carrier wasn’t conducting flight operations at the time.
“It was, however, abnormal and unprofessional, ” Stephens said.
When the carrier transited the Strait of Hormuz in late December, Iranian missile boats launched unguided rockets 1,500 yards away from the U.S. aircraft carrier. The Navy called the act “highly provocative” at the time.
The captured U.S. Navy sailors had entered Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, an outpost in the middle of the Persian Gulf that has been used as a base for Revolutionary Guard speedboats since the 1980 s. The sailors were released within a day, though Iranian country media aired footage of the sailors’ capture, indignation U.S. politicians.
The report by state television said the drone flight occurred on the third day of the naval workout, indicating it happened Friday. Later, its website and the semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, published footage it said was of the drone’s flight.
Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of Iran’s navy, called the droning overflight “a sign of bravery.”
It “allowed our humen to go so close to the warship and shoot such a beautiful and accurate footage of the combat divisions of the foreign forces, ” he told country television.
State television and the state-run IRNA news agency said an Iranian sun submarine also participated in the surveillance operation. When requested information about the submarine report, Stephens said “Iran has several submarines underway for its current exert, ” but declined to discuss specifics.
The Iranian report did not name the U.S. vessel filmed by the droning. The nuclear-powered USS Harry S. Truman, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, is in the Persian Gulf region launching airstrikes and supporting operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Stephens said the drone report would not affect its operations.
“I can say that we are confident in the ability of U.S. naval forces operating in the region to respond appropriately as the situation dictates, and will exert our right to defend our forces against any menace, ” he said.
Separately, nation television said Iran’s navy successfully fired surface-to-surface Noor cruise missiles during the drill at mock targets. Iran has announced other military exercises in the past to demonstrate the capabilities of its armed forces.
Iran’s navy began the naval drill the coming week over a 1.16 -million-square-mile area including parts of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Iran said Wednesday its navy cautioned a U.S. warship to leave an area of the naval drill. The U.S. Navy subsequently denied its operations were affected by the Iranian drill.
While Iran lately struck the nuclear enter into negotiations with world power including the U.S ., its naval forces have continued its maneuvers. Iran has more than 1,240 miles of shoreline facing the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
The U.S. has criticized some of those maneuvers, including what it called a “highly provocative” Iranian rocket test fire in December near its warships and commercial traffic passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran denied launching rockets, though the U.S. later released footage presenting the rocket fire.
The Strait of Hormuz, which insures almost a third of all oil traded by sea pass across it, has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval combat in 1988.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report .
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