Washington, Jun 20 (EFE).- The United States Navy on Thursday denied that an unmanned surveillance drone shot down by Iran the day before while flying over the Strait of Hormuz had entered Iranian airspace.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said earlier Thursday it had brought down the US Navy’s MQ-4C Triton drone after it entered the country’s airspace and flew over the Iranian region of Kouh-e Mobarak, in the southern coastal province of Hormozgan.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.”
The statement confirmed that the drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile at around 11.35 GMT on Wednesday.
The MQ-4C Triton is an unarmed surveillance aircraft that is capable of operating at an altitude of up to 18,000 meters (59,000 feet) and is a version of the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated in recent weeks, with the US deciding to send additional troops, ships and missiles to the Persian Gulf to counter Iran.
The US has accused Iran of a series of alleged sabotage attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, most recently on June 13 when the Japanese-operated Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian-owned Front Altair were hit by explosives.
Iran has denied any involvement in the incidents and has instead accused the US of trying to destabilize the region.
Iran also recently announced that it would breach a central pillar of the 2015 international nuclear deal by producing more than its 300-kilogram limit of enriched uranium.
US President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew from that deal struck by Barack Obama’s administration, which saw Iran scale down its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
His administration then went on to re-apply sanctions on Tehran, focusing on the Islamic Republic’s banking and oil sectors.
In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he would wind down his own observance of the pact, and gave the remaining European signatories, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, 60 days to come up with a mechanism that would allow Tehran to circumnavigate US sanctions.