State-run Iranian media reported Friday that Iran recently flew a military drone over a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, and released a video that they said showed the provocative action underway.
The video shows a ship covered in fighter jets steaming through the blue seas. Cmdr. William Marks, a U.S. Navy spokesman, said in an statement that he could not confirm the authenticity of the video, but he added that an Iranian drone was spotted flying around the French carrier Charles de Gaulle and the American carrier USS Harry S. Truman on Jan. 12 in the Persian Gulf. The drone was unarmed and determined not to be a threat, but Marks said the incident is still considered “abnormal and unprofessional.”
Both aircraft carriers were traveling through international waters, where they have been launching fighter jets to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. Marks said a U.S. Navy helicopter was launched from the Truman to get a closer look at the drone, and personnel on board determined it was not armed before it traveled directly over the ship.
“We are confident in our force’s ability to respond appropriately as the situation dictates and will defend ourselves should that prove necessary,” Marks said.
The incident occurred the same day that 10 U.S. sailors were detained by Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces near Farsi Island, a highly sensitive Iranian military base in the gulf. The sailors, who were traveling in riverine command boats at the time, veered into Iranian waters, and then one of the craft experienced mechanical problems, according to a preliminary Navy investigation.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said during a news conference Thursday that he was “very, very angry” about the detention, striking a more forceful tone on the issue than he did in the first couple of days afterward. He declined to say if he thought the Iranians broke international law in detaining the Americans, but said the United States never would have acted the same way.
“I’m not going give you the international law answer, but I can tell you, Americans wouldn’t have done that,” he said of the detention. “I said that before that for me as secretary of defense — I think it’s probably true of everybody in the department — to see our guys in that situation on Iranian TV, that’s really not okay. Again, we would not have done that.”
The sailors were released the morning after they were taken into custody. They were not injured, but the Iranians recorded numerous videos of them in captivity and kneeling on their craft with their hands behind their heads.
“Our first interest for [the sailors] was their own health and welfare,” Carter said. “The Navy has been attending to that, and that’s important. But this is not the way they should have been treated, and it’s … for certain not the way Americans would have treated foreign sailors in a comparable circumstance.”
Here are images taken from the drone video newly released on Friday: