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Amid Tense Encounters, US Ship Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Boats

The patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) steams in the Arabian Gulf acting as a small boat threat toward guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher during a simulated strait transit. (U.S. Navy photo: Anthony R. Martinez)
The patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) steams in the Arabian Gulf acting as a small boat threat toward guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher during a simulated strait transit. (U.S. Navy photo: Anthony R. Martinez)

The Cyclone-class Navy coastal patrol ship Squall fired three warning shots Wednesday to ward off approaching Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast-attack boats, as tensions escalated over rights of way in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The guided-missile destroyer Stout and a second Cyclone-class patrol ship, the Tempest, also were harassed by small Iranian craft Wednesday but did not fire warning shots, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

The incidents took place in the northern end of the Gulf, where a Kuwaiti navy ship also was harassed by the Iranians, CNN reported.

The 174-foot Squall, assigned to the Navy's Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, fired flares and tried to reach the Iranian craft by radio but "did feel compelled ultimately to fire three warning shots," at which point the Iranian boats turned back, Cook said.

In a similar incident Tuesday in the Persian Gulf, four Iranian fast-attack craft went into a weaving pattern at high speed and two of them came within 300 yards of the guided-missile destroyer Nitze before turning away, according to video obtained by the Associated Press.

The Nitze fired flares, blasted the ship's horn and tried 12 times to make radio contact, to no avail, the Navy said.

Iran's Defense Minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, said Iranian craft are constantly on patrol in the Gulf to prevent intrusions into Iran's territorial waters.

Without referring directly to the latest incidents, Dehghan said, "If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it's an invasion, we confront," the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

In January, Iranian Revolutionary Guard craft briefly captured two small Navy patrol craft and the 10 sailors aboard them who admittedly had strayed into Iranian waters off Farsi island in the Gulf. The sailors and ships were released after the U.S. apologized for the "unintentional" incident.

Cook said the U.S. ships in the incidents Tuesday and Wednesday were acting in a "professional manner" and "we did not see the same from the Iranian boats. He said that the Defense and State departments were "trying to prevent this from escalating into a more serious situation."

"The onus here is on the Iranians" to conduct themselves professionally in the Gulf, he added.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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