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

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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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. A ridiculous waste of time. And no foreign pilot should be allowed to fly our planes in such a manner.

  2. It is our home and you are the ones that need to get out.our pilots are not scared firstly, read the bravery of f14 tomcat pilots during Iran and Iraq war. The Aces of all aces are Iranians. We hold the world record for all categories of F14 tomcat planes. If you want any true inspirational movie material read about H3 air attack. Get out of our countries. The Rearson we don’t engage with your pilots is because you have got strict orders from your Israelie and Saudi allies to send us into war. And we don’t want to give you that reason. The reason our pilots don’t shoot is cause they give a shit about the lives of Iranian people unlike you war fenatics that don’t give rat ass about our lives. Read about our 8 years Iran and Iraq war and read about Liberation of Khoramshahr. We defend our country with our bare hands if we have to. It is ours and we are not giving it to you. One thing we are not scared of is death. I live overseas and I am a professional and if war breaks out in Iran I will go back home and defend what is ours. Viva Iran the land of braves and youngs xxx

    • So international airspace belongs to Iran?
      The only reason the F-4’s were challenged is because they were threatening our drone. The Iran/Iraq war was over 25 yrs ago and your still operating F-14A’s along with some very old Phantoms and maybe a few veteran pilots of that war! So go put your museum pieces back in thier hangars before they end up at the bottom of the Gulf! The U.S and its allies will be in that region for as long as there is a threat to the shipping lanes!
      One more thing, if Iran is so great and peaceful and you would go back if war broke out, why are you living overseas?? Your probably living in Paris, London or New York!
      Ok you have a good day! Stay out of trouble!

      • The US is, has been, and always will be, a bully.
        Just read what the US did to Iran in 1953 and perhaps you’ll have a better understanding of the POS that is amerika.

        • I know world history very well! The U.S used to be an isolationist country but international events (WW2) brought us out of our shell! When Anerica sat back and did nothing we were call cowards and “we didn’t care about the rest off the world”! When we do take action against genocidal, dictatorships, etc we’re called a “bully” or world police, etc. so either way the U.S is supposed to be the bad guy or the blame for other countries own internal problems and to take the heat of their own leaders.
          So tell me what noble utopian country do you come from?

          • “When we do take action against genocidal, dictatorships” except those that America installs and/or supports.

        • A bully!! How about a lot of leaders use the USA to be the great enemy. To inspire nationalism in these countries. They are only looking to create an external foe.
          Our leaders attempt the same thing in the USA. But at least here we have the ability to say anything we wish publicly or directly to our leaders with no threat of problems.

          I believe most countries act in the best interest of their elite class of people. Reporting by the media is usually to give a certain narrative. Bad , good, evil etc….
          Please if someone wishes attack and try to occupy America. We have more guns in the hands of our citizens. Also the world plays a narrative of ignorant American’s. We have the ability to grow in any direction we want as individuals.

          The most open loving people I have ever viewed are American’s if you come here you well be accepted and respected. But we expect you to become American. This country is made up of so many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

          I would be willing to tell you if you need food we will feed you need a blanket we will cover you need protection we will protect you. We judge each on thier own character.

          But if you push us we will kick ass. Most of the time we act from a moral position. We will be dammed if we do dammed if we don’t.

          • “Please if someone wishes attack and try to occupy America.” The exact opposite has been happening for many years.

      • Does the Persian Gulf belong to America? America has been threatening Iran not just with that drone but, has been doing so for many years.

        • America has not truly threatened Iran. If America wished it Iran would be gone in the blink of an eye. If anything America is a little angry about the American soldiers that Iran has helped kill in Iraq.

          • America should be more angry with its corrupt, war criminal politicians who sent its soldiers to die in an unnecessary war of aggression in Iraq.

    • That’s a lot of self-righteousness over thievery. “Bandit” has never been as apt a brevity code as it is with Iranian F-14’s that were STOLEN from King Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi during a coup. Those jets aren’t yours. You’re just petty thieves. And you want to get self-righteous? Sickening.

      Exactly which records do you refer to? Most tomcats lost to blue-on-blue from a pathetic phantom? Well you got me there, you guys sure hold that one. Most Tomcats rotting in a scrapyard because the engineering geniuses that made them won’t sell maintenance equipment to thieves? Well you got us on that, too. Oh, wait! How about most tomcats stolen by brigands who aren’t smart enough to design their own planes? Boy, Iran is the only one in that category for sure!

      It’s a good thing they’re “not afraid to die”, because if they try to challenge an F-22 Raptor, that is what will happen. They will die. That isn’t a fight, it’s an execution.

      Don’t flatter yourself by claiming the air battles of the Iran-Iraq war were some sort of skill. You were getting slaughtered by Iraq until you started using the fruits of your theft in active combat instead of as jerryrigged ACAWS. Iraq was dominating you, that’s WHY your banditlords started risking those F-14s by sending them into active combat. The end result, well, that’s just what happens when American and Soviet fighters of equal era engage. Google “Operation Mole Cricket 19” for more information on that. Turns out that spending insane amounts on defense will earn you the best toys. Is it those toys, which again were the products of pure theft, that won the day. Congratulations, you stole a gun and shot a guy with a knife. We’re so proud of you!

      We don’t want your damn land. Steal yourself some dignity and drop the self-righteous drivel.

      P.S. You don’t own international waters. I understand that, as a nation of thieves, the concept of ownership is a little hard. But it’s not yours. It’s not anyones.

  3. 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.

      • 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?

        • 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.

          • 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.

            • Don’t need to tell me.. I grew up in a US military family. Yep this stuff is biz as usual.

        • 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.

    • 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

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