ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — Visits from Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles designed for surveillance have become commonplace here, where the Bush and ships from its strike group patrol and launch airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
While small Iranian vessels continue to approach the carrier and harass U.S. ships elsewhere in the region, the spy drones appear more regularly, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.
“That is a capability that the entire world is getting, and Iran is no different,” he told Military.com in an interview. “These aren’t small, radio-controlled drones. They’re reconnaissance.”
The first recent reported incident in which Iran flew a drone over a U.S. carrier came in January 2016, when an unarmed reconnaissance UAV approached the Harry S. Truman and a French carrier, the Charles DeGaulle. In that incident, a Navy MH-60 helicopter was launched to investigate, ultimately determining that the unmanned aircraft posed no threat, according to reports.
Now, Pennington said, the Bush detects nearby Iranian drones nearly every day, and crew members have a variety of methods at their disposal to thwart them — and other episodes of Iranian harassment — and protect the ship.
“We almost always have a substantial heads-up,” Pennington said. “And then we have a series of procedures that we train to that gradually, or not gradually, escalates our defensive position and our level of readiness.”