Iranian fighter jets fire on U.S. Predator

Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired Nov. 1 on a U.S. Air Force Predator flying in international airspace over the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iran, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

It’s the latest act of aggression from the Iranians in the Gulf although it’s the first time Iranian jets have fired on an unarmed U.S. drone, said George Little, the Pentagon spokesman.

According to the Pentagon’s account, the Predator was on a routine surveillance mission at about 4:50 a.m. EST over the Gulf on Nov. 1 and was operating at a distance of about 16 miles off the Iranian coastline when two of Iran’s aging, Soviet- made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes approached.

At least one of the single-seat Sukhois fired “multiple rounds” at the Predator from its wing-mounted, twin-barrel, 30mm AQ-17A  30mm mini-gun, but missed its target. The slow-moving Predator moved further off the coastline but the Sukhois pursued and one of them fired and missed again, Pentagon officials said.

The Predator “was not hit” and the drone returned safely to its ground base in the region, Little said. He would not comment on where the drone was operating from, but it has been widely reported that the U.S. maintains major facilities at the Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates. The CIA is also known to operate drones from Al  Dhafra.

The Sukhois are primarily ground attack aircraft and its pilots may have been inexperienced at air-to-air gunnery, which could explain why they missed, a U.S. military official said. The Sukhois may only have been firing warning shots in the two passes as the drone, the official said, but Little said “our working assumption is that they fired to take it down” and missed.

“We will continue to fly surveillance flights” outside Iran’s 12-mile airspace limit over the Gulf, where the U.S. has been maintaining a two carrier presence, Little said. “Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace” in the Nov. 1 incident, Little said.

The issue of why the Pentagon is only now informing the public was raised with Little who explained he was announcing the event only after individuals had illegally leaked classified reports of the attack to the press. CNN’s Barbara Starr first reported the story at 2 p.m. Thursday, the exact time Little’s press conference started in the Pentagon.

Many Republicans will suspect the Obama administration kept the attack secret to protect the president just days before the election. Republican lawmakers had already cried foul over what details the Obama administration released following the Benghazi attack that killed a U.S. Ambassador.

“We don’t typically comment on classified surveillance missions,”Little said. “Someone apparently disclosed this,” Little said, which was why the Pentagon was now choosing to comment.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was quickly notified when the Sukhois opened fire and the White House was also informed, Little said. The U.S. chose not to respond but a complaint was filed with Iran through Swiss diplomats in Tehran, Little said.

“We will continue to fly surveillance flights” outside Iran’s 12-mile airspace limit over the Gulf, where the U.S. has been maintaining a two carrier presence, Little said.

“Our aircraft was never in Iranian airspace” in the Nov. 1 incident, Little said.

— Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • JJ6000

    They may have been experienced in air to air gunnery….or maybe they were just crappy shots? Hmmmm…

    • JJ6000

      make that “inexperienced”

    • Clifford_D

      It is called testing the waters if the drone was in the iranian airspace on mission for intel or an effort to acertain the nations progress on nuclear research for reactors the US would be at fault.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        Punctuation is your friend. You should try it.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

    • Nick

      Maybe they didn’t fire to kill. My guess is they fired to send a political message to the US, something along the lines of “Iran isn’t afraid to fight back.”

      I mean, if they did indeed fire to kill, they likely would have known that shooting down the Predator is tantamount to a declaration of war (if not something really close to it), and, as belligerent as the Iranian government is, they’re smart enough to know that they CANNOT go toe-to-toe against the US military in a conventional conflict.

    • Vanem

      It’s only the beginning of much misery in that region….. How much time does it take to teach the Iranians to behave?

  • Uranium238

    Looks to me like the Iranian version of spray and pray fails on epic proportions.

    • Tyler

      More like they wasted some ammo as a message. I doubt both pilots missed by accident, even accounting for the fact that they are Iranian. They’re testing their limits, pushing our buttons.

    • Bill

      Speaking of praying, since Muslims pray everyday, what does a pilot do mid-flight when its time for a muslim’s daily prayer?

  • Guest

    Gotta love the timing of the “Leak” though….Wonder what the responce would have been had they actually shot it down….

  • dirtylodown

    We just won our first battle with Iran.

  • Lance

    Lucky it was a SU-25 not a F-4 or MiG-29 which could have blown the drone away with AA-2 or AA-6 AA missiles.

  • blight_

    I guess our next response should be to deploy a CG nearby and give them a good radar lock as a warning…

  • DB-1

    Maybe our president will ask them nicely not to shoot at our drone

  • America should respond.

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    Should have just used their wings and flip them like they did with V-1s in World War ii. Would have thrown off GPS and the drone couldnt have righted itself.

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    Should have just used their wings and flip them like they did with V-1s in World War ii. Would have thrown off the GPS and the drone couldnt have righted itself.

  • Nick

    The US has two carrier groups in the region, likely boomers as well, F22s stationed just a stone throw away and some of the toughest economic sanctions ever on Iran. Any “response” beyond the complaint that was filed will mean war. If that’s what people really think is the proportionate response to this incident, say so. Don’t complain about there being “no response” and then complain when America is bogged down in yet another sticky mess in the Mid East.

  • Joe

    non story. Aside from building the case for war with iran of course.

  • David

    Iran should have intercepted our uav with one of their “silent drones”. lmao

  • Rob

    Put a copy of the Quran in every vehicle/drone we have.

    The muslim world will not attack as they risk burning it.

    • Soulja-boi

      How typical of you !

      Well i guess that’s why they have automatic defense systems…

    • Belesari

      Well in reality it dont work well. If i remember correctly someone else a muslim army tried that to another one once…….they got murdered.

  • ddd

    Apparently I have been deleted by the administrator.

  • bob

    Guys guys, this is a ruse. Notice how it was 1 week before the elections. Obviously they want us to get into war.

    This is a play by Russia and China to get us involved in another waste of money and lives.

  • ddd

    It is strange, but I find myself caring much less about this incident than I would have had the aircraft been piloted by a real human. I know in my mind that “firing on an American aircraft is firing on an American aircraft,” but this just seems…trivial.

  • dubweiser101

    I’d be willing to bet my left nut that Iran spun the truth and claimed they shot down the drone on Fars News Agency. Just like they claimed to have hacked the RQ-170 when clearly it crashed, or like the time they claimed they fired hundreds of missiles, when in reality the photo’s Iran published were photo shopped, or like the time when… well you get the point.

  • reality

    Realy? can we delete this? too political and preachy … this is a military/war website, not a political christian site!
    oh, and when you put in cirtain words (dealing with politics or religion), no one wants to read your bullsh*t man.

  • AirBud

    An inexperienced, Iranian Frogfoot pilot vs. a slow-moving, unarmed U.S. Predator drone in an inappropriate 30mm mini-gun duel over the Gulf… Does anyone else have a sense of humor over this trigger-happy event? Clearly, it was a chance encounter by a student pilot, probably. No harm, no foul… ☺.

  • Rob

    Modify a drone so it is nothing more then a model airplane with a camera, speaker a prerecorded sound clip.

    Have it play a song. I’d like to see Gueen – We are the champions.

    Fill it full of candy or whatever you want

    Send it too close or accidently lose it into their territory again :P Let them, have it, like the last drone.When it detects anything near it explodes marshmellow or whip cream all around.

    After that send one more that is a bit more advanced that fires m&m’s and skittles

    Feel free to add more if you like. The drone show must go on.

  • Matrix3692

    why the **** every defense technology/military/war sites i seen had someone like this? i’m getting too tired for this……

  • Thomas L. Nielsen

    “The LORD’s Word in the Bible tells all to beware of many
    that will be False Prophets” -You mean like that “Lord’s Little Helper” guy,
    Paul Felix Schott?

    “Most all on Earth, know that there is but one GOD” – citation, or are you making stuff up for Jebus?

    “The Prophets of Our Lord and GOD would not tell others to hurt or harm others” – The victims of the Crusades, the witch hunts and the Spanish Inquisition called. They’d like a word with you.

    “This Nation Under GOD Needs Good Strong Christian Leaders” – ….like a fish needs a bicycle.

    “Norway Muslims immigrate rape women even a 12 year old” – citation, or is this more of making stuff up for Jebus?

    And what’s with the “Lord’s Little Helper” thing? If your imaginary friend is as powerful as you and your ilk claim, why the FSM would he need anyone’s help, let alone yours?

    Regards & all,

    Thomas L. Nielsen

    • majr0d

      Thomas – You usually post very intelligent posts I enjoy reading. You made an exception here. Even if one person offends you it isn’t right to insult all our faith.

    • majr0d

      Thomas – Your use of “Jebus” and “your imaginary friend” were unecessary. You’ve demonstrated yourself as being intelligent and articulate enough to address one individual vs. disparging the personal beliefs of many. Your comments were as bad as if someone disparged everyone from Luxembourg.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        Since I’m actually expat Dane, a general insult of Luxembourgers wouldn’t worry me too much :-) And even if someone insults all Danes (or all Luxembourgers) I have enough first-hand experience with Danes, Denmark, Luxembourgers and Luxembourg to just say “Well, whatever” and let it pass (hint-hint).

        Joking aside, the terms may have been unnecessary but then, as an evil, amoral, puppy-kicking, hell-bound atheist, I would say that I find religious beliefs in general to be unnecessary.

        And yes, the terms were intended to be disparaging, but only to Mr. Paul (whose contribution to the stupid of the human race has now been deleted, I notice). If Christians or other religious believers find the terms offensive and disparaging to their personal beliefs then, as I said above, that is regrettable, but in my much less than humble opinion this comes under the heading of “collateral damage”.

        But apart from all that, your comments have, as always, been taken ad notam.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Stratege

    So, the Iranian Su-25s are equipped with a US made AQ-17A mini-guns? Surprise.

  • Larry

    Next time they should send a Grey Eagle with its 8 stingers and let it have some fun with these old SU-25 ;-)

  • William C.

    The AIM-92 Stinger has equipped on Predators in the past, but that’s quite short ranged for the air-to-air role, lets find away to put the AIM-9X Sidewinder on the things. See how they like some return fire.

    • Guest

      Thats a hell of a weight difference between a Stinger and a Sidwinder, not to mention the kick of the rocket motor fireing. I wonder how that would affect the stability of the drone.

    • mike e

      A Reaper could probably carry a Sidewinder, it’s on the heavy side for a Predator.

      Really, the Stinger is probably a better air-to-air weapon for a ground-attack drone anyway; given the airframe performance, it isn’t going to be effective air-to-air against jets (want to go after attack helicopters with Grey Eagles, that’s something else!) regardless of how you arm it or what kind of combat programming it has.

  • Abe

    I think they were just trying to shoo the fly away. It’s amusing to see it spun as incompetent aggression.

  • d. kellogg

    For the author…
    I quote, “At least one of the single-seat Sukhois fired “multiple rounds” at the Predator from its wing-mounted, twin-barrel, 30mm AQ-17A 30mm mini-gun…”
    Sukhois do NOT have “wing-mounted” guns.
    And 30mm is a “minigun” caliber?
    Further, the Su-25’s gun has always been fuselage mounted, early models semi-recessed under the belly, later models offset under the forward nose.
    A GSh-30-2 is the actual twin-barrel weapon in question.
    The only thing coming up on this quoted “30mm AQ-17A” is a link to, you guessed it, this very DefenseTech article.
    Nothing from countless, more-credible militaria websites and information groups.
    It could be that stated 30mm AQ-17A is the PODDED VERSION of the GSh-30-2 carried/mounted UNDERWING, but unless this author and/or his source was there and actually witnessed it, how can he claim the Iranian Su-25 actually fired “multiple rounds” at the Predator from its wing-mounted, twin-barrel, 30mm AQ-17A 30mm mini-gun…?

  • d. kellogg

    Was the Predator’s optics slewed onto the aircraft in question, with enough clarity to see podded underwing weapons firing?
    Would be curious to know who these experts are that speculated said Su was carrying gun pods in addition to its internal weapon, and why these podded guns would be weapon-of-choice rather than internal gun.
    Iranian aircraft may even still employ podded 23mm types as well, so we have “proof” it was 30mm cannon fire because…why exactly?
    I think here we have one more instance of semi-literate “military experts” feeding us (the general public and certainly moreso this article’s author)
    more of their drivel laden with their own flakes of semi-researched extrapolated beliefs to add more drama to their story.
    Clarification of FACTS goes a long way in reinforcing credibility.

  • projob66

    I love the tenor of the story, like the Iranians are picking on a poor defenseless drone… haha… unbelievable…

  • blight_


    Why is a ground attack aircraft doing gunnery practice on aerial targets?

    Amusingly, it might be one of the Su-25’s from the Iraqi Air Force that was moved to Iran and captured. Hahaha…

  • L Berry

    First of all, who actually believes we were flying outside the 12 mile border? The drone was probably on typical fly-over and they just happened to be waiting on it. Having seen many instances such as this during my 24 year career in USAF, we did lots of missions over enemy territory and very seldom lost. Gary Powers and his U-2 back in 50’s was one that we lost.

  • Nicky

    It just shows that the Iranians can’t shoot a broad side of a barn. Maybe next time we can send a predator armed with an AIM-9X and a stinger missile

  • CurtisE.

    The bigger story is the timing of the incident’s release to the public. Who among us, Republican or Democrat, doesn’t really believe that the “leak” was timed to happen as it did? Any takers here? No price too high to win an election, campers…takers win and makers lose…another four years of this pathetic mess…

    As for the Frog newbies…they were most definetely trying to shoot down the drone…pathetic! Bet on the Iranians playing it as a warning…hah!

  • blight_

    I suppose the next step is modifying a Global Hawk to carry air to air missiles, and then to use them on aircraft engaging bait Predators.

    For perspective, many American surveillance aircraft were downed by the Soviets in international waters…

  • Mark

    Anyone want a good laugh?

    Tune in to WABC radio and listen to Geraldo Rivera talk about U.S. air power.

    He thinks the F-22 is equivalent to the F-35.

    It is shocking how clueless this Left-Wing Dope is.

  • ray

    what the hell usa doing in persian gulf
    just like iranian navi park it in miami and start to do air show

  • Discusted

    Let’s all build DRONES and sell them on EBAY , then fly around the country looking for battles, what a great way to keep air traffic controllers from falling asleep.

  • Srsly

    “unarmed” spy drone
    Iranian “aggression”
    “”international waters outside Iranian borders” , just like the last drone until they admitted it was 200 miles inside iran Irying to spy on them

    They act like Iran shot some pregnant American woman and didnt just DEFEND their borders and national integrity against aggressive miltiary intrusions and provocations by the U.S. …

  • Srsly

    “unarmed” spy drone
    Iranian “aggression”
    “”international waters outside Iranian borders” , just like the last drone until they admitted it was 200 miles inside iran trying to spy on them

    You act like Iran shot some pregnant American woman and didn’t just DEFEND their country and national integrity against aggressive military intrusions and provocations by the U.S. …

  • Srslywhat

    “unarmed” spy drone
    Iranian “aggression”
    “”international waters outside Iranian borders” , just like the last drone until they admitted it was 200 miles inside Iran trying to spy on them

    You act like Iran shot some pregnant American woman and didn’t just DEFEND their country and national integrity against aggressive military intrusions and provocations by the U.S. …

  • Marcellus Hambrick

    Obummer can handle the Iranians. How? By giving in to their demands. Cant to go war with them or it might jeopardize some of his liberal giveaway programs.

  • Diablotakahe

    If a US F15 had fired on an Iranian drone would you have described the F15 as ageing?

  • david

    And if Iran was flying UAVs 12 miles off the US east coast u don’t think we blast them out of the sky too?
    Most of u people just want us in another war.

  • anthony

    If Iran fired upon our drones it would be all over the news,lets stop trying to get them into a war.Isreal has enough problems we the US pay for and lets hope China stays the course with us debt wise..

  • larry spizzirri

    It is unfortunate that Iran wants to play this game. For people who wish to rush to war, go fight yourselves. Don’t send others.

  • TonyC

    Probably the Iranian pilots weren’t really trying to shoot down the drone. They still had to make it look good to their superiors. Like the other blogs said, there were real air to air assets in the vicinity if needed to take out the SU-25’s.

  • Amicus Curiae

    Message received: 1) Iran knows how to track and intercept US drones; 2) US drones are unprotected; 3) US drones can be shot down at will; 4) Don’t push us .

  • Lookup andfire


    Operational ceiling of Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot = 23,000 ft
    Operational ceiling of Predator = 60,000-65,000 ft.

    Everyone seems to assume they were both flying at the same altitude when they were being fired upon. I thought the Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot was a ground attack (similar to the A-10 warthog) anyway.

    • Yupperrz

      Where are you getting info that the pred is a high alt aircraft?

  • bahman

    “we iranian people trample americans” , this is from our leader , ayatollah khomeyni . a man just for god..

    • Woody

      Bring it on tough guy, take your raghead and climb into one of your Suhkois and let’s see how tough you are against an F-18 Superhornet…..c’mon, the US pilots need some easy practice……maybe you think you stand a chance in one of your “Tomcats”……huh?

  • Robert

    To the haters posting..

    It’s great to have pride in your own country but if look at any soiciety, past or present there has always been crime, mental & stupid people in each.

    In the end we all live on the same planet. It is all too easy to choose to fight.

    If Iran really wants our CIA out of the area and to remove bases overseas, peace is the best choice.

    If there were no hostile regimes or militant groups we would have no reason to be there.

    You blame us. We blame you. It’s time to mutually agree to disagree. Move on .Live on.

    End the Jihad and we go away, It’s as simple as that. Otherwise it will get very bad. Iraq was 1/100th of our alliance’s capability globally.

    Realize if if you somehow break us, we’d resort to nukes. We have enough to destroy the planet.

  • Lewis

    This is interesting, in that it’s quite a different result to what would have happened if a manned aircraft had been shot at. If military aircraft and the military in general become increasingly roboticised, I imagine we’ll see other changes to the way border disputes and political messages take place.

  • africa

    If they really want to shoot it down they would have but instead.. I think they use their student air force men & old grand attack jets (all to show how learned this students are).

  • Zspoiler

    The iranian seem to forget that our drones can shoot back . just mount a pair if Side winders instead of Hellfires. Then if they try some thing stupid like that . Would n`t that be a BIG suprise.

  • kevin

    what america waiting for to strike iran.. c’mon man it will be fun if there comes the real world war 3.. heh..heh.. there’s many people who scare to die but looking trouble to go to war.. do you have any idea what is after death ????.. do you really think it’s just like sleeping… ???