On April 2, Iranian naval forces detected an unauthorized entry by a United States Navy “spy plane” into the country’s airspace over the Gulf of Oman and warned off the aircraft, according to a report by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
“After the warning, the plane was prevented from entering the country’s skies without authorization,” said the report.
The aircraft was identified as an EP-3E, an electronic signals reconnaissance variant of the P-3 Orion operated by the U.S. Navy. The aircraft also known by the acronym ARIES, or “Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System”.
The EP-3E has Signals intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities. SIGINT is the interception of signals, whether communications between people, or from electronic signals not directly used in communication. There are 11 EP-3Es in the U.S. Navy’s inventory, the last of which was delivered in 1997.
The Department of Defense has not commented on the incident, yet. Iran has had similar confrontations with U.S. aircraft in the past. In 2019, Iran shot down a U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk BAMS-D surveillance drone which it said was flying over southern Iran.
The incident came just a week after eight Iranian-backed fighters were killed in a confrontation with U.S. forces in northeastern Syria. It also came after a series of Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian capital, Damascus, that claimed the lives of two military advisors of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In response to recent tensions in the Middle East, Washington deployed additional attack aircraft in the region and extended the deployment of a carrier strike group in the Mediterranean Sea.