An F-15 fighter jet flew near an Iranian passenger airliner over Syria Thursday, U.S. military officials said, in an attempt to identify whether the aircraft posed a threat to coalition troops on the ground, according to an official statement from Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters.
"The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At Tanf garrison. Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft," the statement, from U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban, said. "The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards."
Earlier Thursday, passengers on the Iranian commercial airliner posted videos and photos on social media claiming a fighter jet was buzzing the aircraft "in a threatening manner" near Damascus. Passengers on board speculated whether the jet was Israeli or American.
While the F-15 model was not specified, F-15E Strike Eagles from the Air Force's 492nd Fighter Squadron assigned to RAF Lakenheath, England, deployed to the Middle East in May, according to a report from Air Force Magazine. The 492nd replaced the 389th Fighter Squadron from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, to conduct missions from an unspecified location, according to a release.
Notably, in separate 2017 incidents -- on June 8 and again on June 20 -- F-15E jets shot down Iranian-made Shaheed drones over At Tanf as the unmanned aerial vehicles approached or dropped munitions near U.S.-backed forces on the ground.
Officials at the time said coalition forces were patrolling an established combat outpost to the northeast of At Tanf, where they're training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against Islamic State militants.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.