On an otherwise unremarkable day in March 2013, an American MQ-1 Predator drone was flying in international airspace off Iran, conducting a routine surveillance flight over the Persian Gulf. But the U.S. Air Force knew trouble might be lurking ahead. Several months earlier, a pair of Iranian Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes had attempted unsuccessfully to shoot down another patrolling Predator. After that, the Pentagon decided subsequent drone patrols would be escorted, either by F/A-18 Hornets from the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier or F-22s deployed to nearby Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. On this day, Lt. Col. Kevin “Showtime” Sutterfield was the escort, heading toward the drone in case of trouble. “Showtime” was in a Raptor.
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