WASHINGTON — An Iranian jet fighter pursued an American surveillance drone over the Persian Gulf this week but ended the chase after a radio warning from an American escort plane, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The chase, which occurred Tuesday, followed a more serious encounter in November, when Iranian warplanes fired on, but missed, a Predator drone carrying out a similar classified surveillance mission.
Pentagon officials said that in both instances the drones were in international airspace.
Even so, the episodes illustrate the chance of unintended hostilities arising from encounters between remotely piloted surveillance craft and Iranian warplanes in the heavily militarized Persian Gulf.
The Pentagon press secretary, George Little, said that in the episode Tuesday, an Iranian F-4 jet fighter approached within 16 miles of the Predator, which was being escorted by a pair of American military aircraft. U.S. officials did not say what type of American planes were involved.
"The Iranian aircraft departed after a verbal warning," Little said.
An initial Pentagon statement said one of the American escort planes had fired a flare to warn the Iranian jet away but later retracted that report.