Navy Patrol Ship Had Hostile Encounter With Iranian Boats In Strait Of Hormuz
Monday’s incident is the latest between U.S. and Iranian forces in and around the Strait of Hormuz.
A U.S. Navy warship had to fire a flare and issue audible warnings after three Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels interacted in “an unsafe and unprofessional manner” in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, the Navy said.
The hour-long incident began as the Cyclone class coastal patrol Ship USS Sirocco and the Expeditionary Fast Transport ship USNS Choctaw County were conducting a routine transit in international waters, according to a Navy media release which laid out the following course of events:
During the strait transit, the two U.S. ships were approached by three IRGCN fast inshore attack craft.
One of those vessels approached Sirocco head-on at dangerously high speed. Only after Sirocco issued audible warnings did the Iranian vessel alter course to avoid a collision.
The Iranian fast-boat got as close as 50 yards to Sirocco, which responded by firing a warning flare.
After about an hour, the Iranian vessels departed and the two U.S. Navy ships continued their course through the Strait.
This latest incident comes as the U.S. and Iran are deadlocked over efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement abrogated by the Trump administration.
Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that agreement gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee it would not develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied having that intent.
Monday’s incident was the latest involving U.S. forces and the IRGCN in and around the Strait of Hormuz. The geographical choke-point is an area that makes up a good chunk of Iran’s coastline and where its vessels like to make their presence known.
In March, three IRGCN vessels - including a Harth 55 catamaran and two fast inshore attack craft - made another unsafe and unprofessional approach toward a group of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels outward bound through the Strait.
The Harth 55 crossed within 25 yards of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Robert Goldman, Navy Cmdr. Timonty Hawkins, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command spokesman, told The War Zone.
The Robert Goldman and another Coast Guard Cutter, the USCGC Charles Moulthrope “issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and deployed warning flares,” Hawkins said.
The interaction lasted approximately two hours and ended when the IRGCN vessels departed the area. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships continued their transit without further incident.
Before that, there was an incident in November, 2021 in which an Iranian Navy helicopter came within 25 feet of the Amphibious Assault Ship USS Essex while it was in the Gulf of Oman, the U.S. Naval Institute reported at the time.
The Iranian helicopter flew within 25 yards of the Essex’s port side, then-Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at the time. It flew as low as 10 feet off of the water’s surface and circled the ship three times.
And in April, 2021, The War Zone reported the U.S. Navy Cyclone class patrol craft USS Firebolt fired warning shots toward a group of three small Iranian boats during an incident in the Persian Gulf.
Firebolt was sailing together with the U.S. Coast Guard's Island class patrol boat USCGC Baranoff at the time of the incident, which started at around 8 p.m. local time on April 26, 2021. The Navy did not identify the types of small Iranian boats that harassed the American ships, but the IRGCN is known to operate a diverse fleet of small craft in this general category.
The Iranian boats "failed to exercise due regard for the safety of other vessels as required under international law as they came into close proximity to U.S. naval vessels in international waters," the Navy said in a statement at the time. "The IRGCN armed speed boats rapidly approached U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship USS Firebolt nd U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranoff to an unnecessarily close range with unknown intent, including a closest point of approach of 68 yards to both U.S. ships.
"The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close range maneuvers," the press release continued. "The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels."
The incident followed a similar encounter between a pair of the Coast Guard's Island class patrol boats and a group of IRGCN boats, including the Harth 55 class catamaran Shahid Nazeri, on April 2. You can read more about that here.
While the most recent incident between U.S. and Iranian naval forces resulted in no casualties or damage, it won't be the last time there will be dangerous interactions.
Especially in the Strait where hostile interactions rendezvous between Iranian and U.S. vessels have occurred for decades.
The dragging on of nuclear negotiations are likely to only heighten the frequency and amplitude of these events.
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