U.S. Coast Guard cutter Maui issued a total of 30 warning shots at Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy fast in-shore attack craft on Monday harassing six U.S. vessels — marking the second time in just two weeks that U.S. vessels have done so.
“Earlier today, a large group of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy … fastboats conducted unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers and failed to exercise due regard for the safety of U.S. forces as required under international law, while operating in close proximity to U.S. naval vessels that were transiting the Strait of Hormuz,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Monday.
A total of 13 Iranian fast in-shore attack craft were involved in a high-speed approach of the U.S. ships, the Navy said in a news release Monday. Two of the Iranian vessels separated from their own group and emerged behind Maui and patrol coastal ship Squall at “a high rate of speed (in excess of 32 knots) with their weapons uncovered and manned,” according to the Navy.
The Iranian vessels ignored verbal and acoustic warnings from the U.S. ships, along with five blasts of the ship’s horn, according to the 5th Fleet.
Kirby said that the warning shots came in two separate intervals — one when the Iranian vessels were roughly 300 yards from the U.S. vessels and another at 150 yards — using a .50-caliber machine gun. The two Iranian vessels didn’t back off until after the second round of warning shots.
“Sadly, harassment by the IRGC Navy is not a new phenomenon. It is something that all of our commanding officers and the crews of our vessels are trained for,” Kirby said. “This activity is the kind of activity that could lead to somebody getting hurt and could lead to a real miscalculation there in the region, and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interests.”
In addition to Maui and Squall, U.S. ships the Iranian vessels approached were the guided-missile cruiser Monterey, patrol coastal ships Thunderbolt and Hurricane, Coast Guard patrol boats Wrangell, and the guided-missile submarine Georgia. The U.S. ships were exercising transit passage in the Strait of Hormuz as they escorted Georgia as the submarine was transiting on the surface, the Navy said.
The incident comes on the heels of a similar episode last month. On April 26, coastal patrol boat Firebolt fired warning shots at three fast-attack craft of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps navy
The incident occurred as the U.S. ships were conducting routine maritime security operations in the northern Arabian Gulf, the Navy said. The Iranian vessels approached the U.S. crews at “an unnecessarily close range with unknown intent,” according to the service.
“The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels,” said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the 5th Fleet, in a statement.
The closest point of approach during the exchange was 68 yards for both the Firebolt and Baranoff, according to the Navy.
The incident was the first time since July 2017 that a U.S. warship issued warning shots at Iranian vessels.
Earlier in April, the Navy reported that the Iranian ship Harth 55 and three other fast-attack craft also engaged in unsafe maneuvers near U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats Wrangell and Monomoy, leading the Coast Guard ships to deliver a series of warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and five short blasts from the ships’ horns.
The Navy said Harth 55 “repeatedly crossed the bows of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range” and got within 70 yards of the Coast Guard vessels during the roughly three hour incident on April 2, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. Coast Guard ships were in the midst of completing routine maritime security patrols in the southern Arabian Gulf.