U.S. F-22 stealth fighter pilot taunted Iranian F-4 Phantom combat planes over the Persian Gulf

Sep 19 2013 - 374 Comments

Earlier this year, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, said that an IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4 Phantom combat plane attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran.

As we reported back then, one of the two F-4 Phantom jets came to about 16 miles from the UAV but broke off pursuit after they were broadcast a warning message by two American planes escorting the Predator.

The episode happened in March 2013, few months after a two Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (informal name of the IRGC – the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran, the interception of the unmanned aircraft failed. After this attempted interception the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance)  missions with fighter jets (either F-18 Hornets with the CVW 9 embarked on the USS John C. Stennis whose Carrier Strike Group is currently in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility or F-22 Raptors like those deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE.

New details about the episode were recently disclosed by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh who on Sept. 17 not only confirmed that the fighter jets providing HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) 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 encouter with Russian Mig-28s in Top Gun movie than a standard interception.

It would be interesting to know how the Raptor managed to remain stealth (did they use their radar? were they vectored by an AWACS? etc.) and why it was not the E-2 most probably providing Airborne Early Warning in the area to broadcast the message to persuade the F-4 to pursuit the drone before the Iranian Phantoms and the U.S. Raptors got too close in a potentially dangerous and tense situation?

Anyway the U.S. pilot achieved to scare the Iranian pilots off and save the drone. A happy ending worthy of an action movie.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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  • Rob Annable

    This story has really annoyed me- flying in international airspace is one thing, but the fact that the Iranians scrambled their jets in the first place is because there are foreign aircraft very close to their border! If the situation was reversed and an Iranian pilot did that within the same number of miles to a US border, the Americans would be going absolutely batshit crazy. Even more so if they pulled such a stunt and rolled off that arrogant comment.

    • Bez

      Indeed. This is yet another example of American double standards.

      • Douglas Kostel Jr.

        What part of, they tried to shoot another drone that was in international airspace, didn’t you understand? Not intercept it, but to shoot it down. Is that what the US does when planes fly close to our border?

        • Andrew Oriez

          Good post. People do not realize how often MANNED flights like these carried out by Russia and back in the day the Soviet Union patrolled along our borders. No big deal! Now the story here is that the Iranians had no idea the Raptors were around.

          • Calli Arcale

            Not just were — the Russians are *still* routinely testing US air response along the 12 nautical mile limit. With Bears (strategic bombers), not just patrol aircraft. People act like there’s some weird double standard, but it’s only because they don’t realize that American borders are tested literally all the time as well.

        • Rob Annable

          They tried to shoot the drive down in 2013, also irrelevant to this story.

        • zesphynx

          if they wanted to shoot it down, they would have. that drone could have been shot down from 30 miles away. they were tracking it. the double standard that bez may be referring to is that if an iranian spy drone was flying 18nm of the american coast line it would have been more than likely shot down. the reality is that an iranian military presence would never ben tolerated even within 500nm of a us border. that’s the simple truth.

    • Andrew Oriez

      The thing is this happened ALL THE TIME during the Cold War with Soviet (and now Russian) Recon aircraft conducting the same type of mission on the edge of US Airspace. You don’t hear about it (except for occasional blurbs) because we DON’T go nuts. We intercept, escort and life moves along. The big difference here is that previously the Iranians tried to shoot our bird down. That is a no no

      • Bez

        “we DON’T go nuts.” Americans already have, plenty of times. Even on this site.

  • Dexity

    Ok everyone take a deep breath. These exercises aren’t a new thing. Everyone does them. They are meant to test response times of how fast the other side scrambles their jets. Russia does to America about once a month. Russia does this to all surrounding countries. India, China do the same thing. So before you all get butt hurt about evil America take a second to consider that Iran probably does the same thing. These stories will pop up every few years and people will always argue about them.

    Here’s the deal with pilots. They’re all a little bit crazy and way over confident. If you put an American, Russian, and Iranian pilot in a bar they would all be buying each other drinks and telling similar stories to this one. These guys have a mutual respect for one another.

    These runs have been happening for decades. The thing is you want them to continue, it keeps your pilots sharp.

  • Bez

    Indeed. It is Americans who can go home. The Persian Gulf is next to Iran and nowhere near America.