Navy Supply Ship Fires on Vessel Off Dubai

The Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain reported that a Navy security team aboard the USNS Rappahannock, a supply ship from the civilian-crewed Military Sealift Command, fired a burst from a .50-caliber machinegun at a fast approaching motorboat in the Gulf, possibly killing one aboard.

The motorboat, described as a "small, white pleasure craft," ignored repeated alerts from the Rappahannock,  including warning shots, to turn away and kept closing at high speed, the Fifth Fleet statement said.

"When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun, " the  statement said.

The small boat then backed off and appeared to resume its original course to the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali. The incident was under investigation.

The Rappahannock is a 677-foot Sealift Command oiler with a mainly civilian crew that will take aboard Navy security teams in contested areas.

Earlier today, the Pentagon announced the carrier Stennis and its strike group will do a quick turnaround at its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., and head back to sea four months early to keep a two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf amid rising tensions.

Officials said the request for the Stennis to go to the Gulf came from Marine Gen. James Mattis, head of the Central Command, who was in Baghdad Sunday and heard pleas from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to speed up U.S. arms deliveries to defend Iraqi airspace, the officials said.

Iran has protested Iraq's agreement  with the U.S. to buy surveillance drones and 36 F16 strike fighters as part of a $16 billion arms package.

The Stennis will "help support existing naval forces as well as respond to a wide range of contingencies" in the Gulf, where Iran has threatened to shut down the Straits of Hormuz chokepoint in the event of a U.S. or Israeli airstrike on its nuclear programs, said chief Pentagon spoeksman George Little.

The Stennis is expected to arrive in the Gulf by "late summer" to replace the carrier Enterprise.  The carrier Eisenhower is already underway to replace the carrier Lincoln in the Gulf. But there will be no overlap in the movement of the carriers that would leave three carriers on station in the Gulf, Pentagon officials said.

"This is about a wide range of security interests but we're always mindful of the challenge posed by Iran," Little said. He added that "Syria obviously is something that's a top national security priority for the U.S."

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) has hammered on President Obama for failing to keep pressure on Iran, but Little said the early deployment of the Stennis "has nothing to do with presidential politics. It has nothing to do with the election season."

The Stennis returned to Bremerton in March after a seven-month deployment in which the carrier launched the Navy's final air reconnaissance mission over Iraq.

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