FAA Bans Civilian Flights in Middle East Airspace Amid Iranian Missile Attacks

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In this Dec. 8, 2018, file photo, a worker fuels a Delta Connection regional airlines passenger jet at Logan International Airport in Boston. More than 7 in 10 U.S. airline passengers (72%) say ticket price is a key deciding factor when choosing an airport to fly into or from, according to a 2019 survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,800 U.S. adults who have ever flown on an airplane. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
In this Dec. 8, 2018, file photo, a worker fuels a Delta Connection regional airlines passenger jet at Logan International Airport in Boston. More than 7 in 10 U.S. airline passengers (72%) say ticket price is a key deciding factor when choosing an airport to fly into or from, according to a 2019 survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,800 U.S. adults who have ever flown on an airplane. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued emergency restrictions on civilian aircraft flying over portions of the Middle East, citing a "potential for miscalculation or misidentification."

Within hours of Iran firing ballistic missiles into Iraq, targeting bases where U.S. military personnel are housed, the FAA began warning pilots to steer clear of the region. In three "notice to airmen" messages, the agency prohibits flights over Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

"Heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East ... present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification," the warnings state.

In a statement, the FAA said it will closely monitor the events in the Middle East.

"We continue coordinating with our national security partners and sharing information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities."

Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq on Tuesday night. There is no word of casualties. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement about 90 minutes after the attacks began that they were still evaluating the situation and our response.

"We will take all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners and allies in the region," he said.

Related: A Dozen Missiles Target US Troops at Al Asad, Erbil in Iran Retaliatory Strike

The missile attacks, which hit Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq and Erbil in the north, were in retaliation for last week's killing of a prominent Iranian military leader, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were reportedly at the White House Tuesday night to discuss further developments. Iranian state TV has warned that the country will issue "more crushing responses" if the U.S. retaliates.

The FAA's restrictions in the area come more than two decades after a devastating miscalculation in the region. In 1988, the U.S. Navy accidentally shot a passenger jet on its way to Dubai.

The guided-missile destroyer Vincennes took down the jet with a surface-to-air missile after it was mistaken for an F-14 Tomcat. The aircraft was destroyed and 290 people on board were killed.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Esper: US Won't Start a War with Iran, But Would Finish One

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