[Photo] Iranian plane flies close to US aircraft carrier. F-18 Hornet intercepts it.

Jan 28 2014 - 44 Comments

In 2012 a P-3 Orion decided to fly close to a U.S. carrier at sea. And these images show what happened next.

The images in this post, published on an Iranian site (that is currently down) were probably between January and June 2012, when USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) operated in the Persian Gulf.

They show what happens each time an Iranian Navy Fokker 27 or P-3 Orion (as in this case) decides to skirt an American flattops that is operating within the Fifth Fleet AOR (Area Of Responsibility): it’s intercepted and escorted (in this case by an F/A-18E Super Hornet of the VFA-137 “Kestrels” in cool digital color scheme.

Since these maritime patrol planes fly in international airspace and don’t pose a real threat to the Strike Group, the aircraft carrier doesn’t need to take any real defensive action other than tracking the surveillance plane all time or divert one of its fighter jets to intercept it.

Aircraft carriers don’t even need to change their course if a spyplane pops up on the radar, provided that it is not armed and it doesn’t show an aggressive behaviour.

Every now and then even Iranian speedboats and maybe subs pay visit to the U.S. nuclear-powered carriers.

F_A-18 1

Image credit: Iranian Navy/Aerospacetalk.ir  via Militaryphotos.net

H/T to Bjorn Broten for the heads-up


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  • Chris Cole

    Yeah… that’s not a Charlie Hornet… It’s an Echo model Super Hornet

  • Boneski

    That’s an F/A-18E, check the square intakes.

    • Tomcat

      I never realized the difference in the intakes. Thanks for that bit of trivia.

  • mohsen

    that’s a pretty common situation, there is very more interesting video (probably classified) in which Iranian pilot decreases his speed to near stall speed, and F-18 pilot uplifts his plane’s nose, very close to vertical state to sync his speed with Iranian plane.

  • Nick Vaughn

    Obviously a non-tactical photo…the flat window on the escape hatch is on the port side of a P-3.

    • YXGuy

      I believe you mean starboard…

  • Bill Gore

    One important issue is this is one of two F-18’s on the job. The other guy will be back on the unidentified aircraft’s 6 ready to fire if called upon.

  • Haman irani

    thats called escorting not intercepting . if it was intercepted it wasnt flying 10 meter close to your carriers ! besides US is in no position to intercept our fighters there , our naval fleet is on its way to atlantic ocean now . see ya then

    • Ara Rezaee

      You call 50 Speed Boats your “Naval Fleet”? That’s cute :))

      • Agha

        Ara, you think speed boats are Iran’s fleet?! “That’s cute”, but ignorant.

        • Ara Rezaee

          Here’s something that you can’t succumb to because your head is so far up into your butt: Actually “both” the Iranian Navy and AF are 100% scrap metal (I mean this in a literal way: If the US or any Arab countries in the region go to war with Iran, These two forces that most Iranians are so proud of would turn to dust in a heart beat), Iraq is the only country in the region that “currently” is weaker than Iran. Ironically Speedboats are IRIN’s most dangerous weapon (They are the Kamikaze of Iran)

          • Agha

            Yes. Whatever you say dear. That’s why the USA and Arab countries have not, started a war with Iran. Anyone who has bothered to learn anything about the IRIN knows that it is not just speed boats. Why not make the effort to educate yourself before trying to talk about something?

        • OG_Locc

          Nothing wrong with having nothing but speedboats. Less stuff to replace the next time we decide to wipe out your entire navy in one afternoon. LMAO

          • Agha

            OG_Locc, why not make the effort to educate yourself about something, before trying to talk about it? That way you won’t come across as ignorant.

            • OG_Locc

              Everybody is aware that Iran’s “Navy” is more than just speed boats. They have plenty of other cannon fodder in there as well.

              I’m assuming English is your second language – so it’s hard to pick up the subtleties of sarcasm and hyperbole. (You’re doing far better than I would, were the roles reversed).

              The original guy joking about “50 speedboats” was just a way of mocking Iran’s dinky, antiquated, hapless, “Navy”.

              My joke was a reference to Operation Praying Mantis.

              • Agha

                “joking”? Sounds more like an excuse from people who don’t know what they are talking about.

                Seriously, why not make the effort to educate yourself about the IRIN? Would that be too much of an effort?

                • Reaper

                  because irans navy doesnt matter

        • Cody3/75

          You do realize one Arleigh Burke class destroyer could destroy your entire “fleet” at the same time right?
          You silly Iranians, when will you ever learn?

          • Agha

            Apparently, Iranians learn more than certain commenters here, do. “speed boats”, lol!

        • Reaper

          sorry, we forgot about the jet ski suicide bombers

    • OG_Locc

      I don’t know what it is you’re trying to say, but it’s hilarious!

    • Cody3/75

      Wait what? Any time any aircraft, like this Super Hornet, is vectored towards another aircraft, its called an intercept. The path there is an “intercept track”. The US is in no position to intercept your fighters where? What fighters? Thats a P-3, not a fighter. Also, American carrier aircraft intercept people where ever they like in international waters. We did it on a daily basis with the Russians. An Iranian P-3 isn’t going to stop us.
      Your naval is on its way to the Atlantic Ocean? Hahahahha what fleet? You do realize the Atlantic is a scary place and your speed boats might sink? Plus that water is cold!!

      • Agha

        Still going with “speed boats”? Lol, no wonder Americans have a global reputation for being ignorant about the rest of the world!

        • Cody3/75

          Oh we’re not ignorant. We just apply a very tongue-in-cheek attitude towards things like this. Yes I’m aware your Navy has a handful of small frigates and other blue water craft. I know you’ve got Kilo submarines. Doesn’t change the fact that 90% of your Navy is still made up of littoral gunboats. All of which combined don’t have the striking power of American destroyer. Much less a carrier battle group…

          Do your homework kiddo. Remember what happened last time you tangled with the US Navy? Your Navy hasn’t changed since (as evidence by the same class of frigates in service as the one we sank). Our Navy isn’t matched by the rest of the world combined. That friend, is not ignorance, nor arrogance, its an unequivocal fact…

          • Agha

            “Your Navy hasn’t changed since”. You keep telling yourself that.

            “Do your homework kiddo.” You would benefit from taking your own advice. That way, you won’t look ignorant.

    • Lawrence D. Wood

      That was an ‘escort’, had they intercepted, they should have shot it down. Hostile, and all of that, et wot?
      Keep annoying the American eagle, and Iran will find out what the talons feel like.

    • Reaper

      naval fleet? you mean 30 little speed boats? youre funny

  • That’s pretty close to a $12bn flattop. Am I right?

    • Misanthropik

      $4.7B per wikipedia.

  • phuzz

    That digital cammo does a surprisingly good job of making it hard to focus on the F/A-18.

  • Marsch

    The F/A-18E got a new CAG painting in early 2012 which means these photos must have been taken in 2011 as it still had it’s digital camo.

  • Tweedle Dee

    So an aircraft of questionable intentions made it within a few hundred yards of carrier battle group?

  • prugio

    That’s no intercept…obviously POTUS is allowing our enemies all-access to our military now. The P-3 is a fully capable combat platform capable of dispatching an aircraft carrier at long or close distance.

  • Tom Cooper

    Iranian P-3Fs are operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, not the ‘Navy’.

    And yes, such encounters are ‘routine’, nothing unusual. Some are getting funny when Iranian crews discover that F/A-18s are ‘unmanned’… :P

    • NavG8r

      Not true. There are no unmanned F/A-18s

      • Tom Cooper

        Oh, there are ‘unmanned’ F/A-18s: those flown by female pilots. ;-)

  • joe

    That photo is actually more likely from the 2010-2011 deployment. That paint scheme was discarded by the time we went on the 2011-2012 deploment

  • paul

    First and formost if cag was worried about the P3 or any other aircraft it wouldn’t have made it within 10 miles. Second the pic is out of the starboard side but as far forward as it is that’s the navcom window.

  • Might be wrong..

    Super Hornets are duel seats, are they not?

    • Daniel Kunkle

      There are two Super Hornets (well technically 3 I guess) The E model is single seat, the F model is dual seat and the G model is a two seat electronic warfare version called the Growler.

  • Cody3/75

    Hey Wingnut, nice picture. Glad somebody is still putting the Iranian’s in their place. Craig W. is my little cousin. He showed me the video you guys put together. Loved that too. Keep up the good work!

  • P.Act

    I think the US navy can intercept these planes for so much further distance but to prevent any probable conflict they let Iranian planes get closer than usual but that’s not a good solution I guess

  • friendship

    Hello everybody, I guess that everyone knows that US Navy got the best Fighters and also the best training round the world. No doubt. I am Iranian but in a range of age that remembers the friendship between USA and Iran, when we had American neighbors beside our home, when we were going to school together, playing as kids together, and we lost us when it got finished. To let you know clearly, the most lovable country in the world for we, the Iranians, has been and also is the USA. The problem is that a kid comes and says things that bothers Americans, and makes people think that may be all Iranians are this way. I really miss those golden years of friendship and I am sure at least 90% of Iranians feel so. If you google the name Jalil Zandi, even in Wikipedia you can simply find out the best F 14 pilot ever (as F 14 has been dismissed from US Naval and Air force). This Jet Ace was flying an American made fighter, and had educated in USA. But see now a days, we see that the people are fighting in net for nothing! An old American made airplane that belongs to that old good golden days of friendship flew close to a US carrier, and some people abuse that situation to spread hater! Unfortunately the media has done the way that Americans think that Iranians are their enemies, but you can simply find Americans that has come to Iran in last 20 years around you. I am sure when you find them and ask them, your opinion will be changed. Iranians are not the enemy of Americans, nor for US government. Best wishes, bye.