This post has been updated with a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter fired two rounds of warning shots at a swarm of Iranian fast boats harassing a Navy guided-missile submarine and other U.S. warships entering the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz early Monday, a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters this afternoon.
The 13 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) fast attack boats came within 150 yards of a group of six U.S. surface ships that were escorting the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN-729), spokesperson John Kirby told reporters during a press briefing.
“The fast boats 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,” Kirby said.
“The boats approached the U.S. formation at high-speed closing in as close as 150 yards. After following all the appropriate and established procedures involving ships horn, blast bridge-to-bridge radio transmissions and other ways of communicating, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui (WPB-1304) fired approximately 30 warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun. After the second round of warning shots, the 13 fast attack craft from the IRGCN broke contact.”
A Navy official told USNI News, the IRGCN boats made a high-speed approach on the U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61); patrol ships USS Thunderbolt (PC-12), USS Hurricane (PC-3) and USS Squall (PC-7); Coast Guard patrol boats, USCGC Wrangell (WPB-1332), Maui and Georgia.
“The U.S. naval vessels were escorting Georgia as the submarine was transiting on the surface. Two Iranian vessels broke away from the larger group, transited to the opposite side of the U.S. formation, and approached Maui and Squall from behind at a rate of speed in excess of 32 knots with their weapons uncovered and manned,” the official told USNI News.
“The remaining 11 FIAC maintain their position which placed the formation of U.S. ships in between the two Iranian groups. In order to deescalate the situation and ensure the safety of all ships and personnel, U.S. crews issued multiple warning shots to both groups of Iranian vessels… After the two IRGCN vessels failed to respond to repeated warnings and closed within 300 yards, Maui exercised lawful de-escalatory measures by firing warning shots. The two IRGCN vessels again failed to respond to warnings and closed to within 150 yards of Maui, at which time Maui fired additional warning shots.”
The incident is the latest in a spate of harassment from the IRGCN – the sectarian military force that’s responsible for the coastal security of Iran and the Strait of Hormuz.
On April 26, three IRGCN fast boats quickly approached USS Firebolt (PC-10) and U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranoff (WPB-1318), coming within 70 yards of the U.S. vessels operating in international waters, according to a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet at the time. Sailors fired warning shots to ward off the attack boats.
In early April, three fast-attack craft and IRGCN catamaran Harth 55 harassed two cutters – USCGC Wrangell (WPB-1332) and USCGC Monomoy (WPB-1326) – over a period of three hours. Harth crossed ahead of cutter USCGC Monomoy, forcing the cutter to take an evasive turn to avoid collision.