The Iranian vessel, belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, approached the USS Thunderbolt at a high speed and dismissed warnings in it, for example signals and voice communications.
“The Allied boat didn’t respond to repeated efforts to set up radio communications as it approached,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement. “Thunderbolt then fired warning flares and appeared the globally recognized danger signal of five short blasts on the ship’s whistle, but the Iranian vessel continued inbound.”
It was only when the warning shots have been fired that its approach stopped, the Navy stated.
The Navy characterized the encounter, which occurred around 3 p.m. local time Tuesday, as “an unsafe and unprofessional interaction” and explained the undercover ship’s actions did not follow internationally known “rules of the street … creating a risk for collision.”
When the vessel approached, according to the Navy, even the Thunderbolt was conducting a coalition exercise in international waters.
While close encounters between U.S. ships and also Iranian small craft from the Gulf are common, it is rare for a U.S. ship to shoot warning shots. Here is the nearest that an underground vessel has come to some U.S. ship in the Gulf in at least a year.
At four small craft which approached a top speed a Navy destroyer fired a burst of warning shots in January. Those boats got as close. And in August of this past year, the USS Squall fired warning shots into the water before a speeding ship to warn the craft it’d come within 200 yards.
At a more recent encounter the Navy deemed “dangerous and unprofessional,” an Iranian ship targeted a laser at a U.S. helicopter as it accompanied three Navy ships during the Strait of Hormuz final month.
After that incident, a spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet stated, “Illuminating helicopters with capsules at night is dangerous, as it produces a specific threat that could impair vision and could be reverted to pilots utilizing night-vision goggles.” The nearest the Iranian vessel got to these U.S. boats was 800 yards.