A Marine attack helicopter was harassed by sectarian Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. 5th Fleet official told USNI News on Thursday.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy shined a laser several times at an AH-1Z Viper helicopter flying over the Persian Gulf.
“The IRGCN interacted in an unsafe and unprofessional manner with a U.S. AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter, assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit as the aircraft was conducting routine operations in the international airspace of the [Persian] Gulf, Sept. 27. The interaction took place at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time,” reads the statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.
“IRGCN vessels shone a laser multiple times at the aircraft while in flight. Fortunately, no injuries were reported and the aircraft was not damaged.”
The Viper was assigned Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 162 (Reinforced) embarked on big deck amphibious warship USS Bataan (LHD-5). Bataan and USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) have been in the Middle East since early August as part of a surge of forces in reaction to harassment of merchant traffic in and out of the Persian Gulf.
“We’ve continued to see Iran or the IRGC disrupting the free flow of commerce within the region, which is why the secretary [of Defense] made the decision that he did to deploy capabilities and more forces into the region to disrupt the IRGC from continuing its activity within the Strait of Hormuz,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said last month.
During Bataan’s transit into the Persian Gulf in August, the IRGC claimed they forced Marine and Navy helicopters to land after threatening to fire on the aircraft.
The Bataan ARG includes Amphibious Squadron 8, Fleet Surgical Team 8, Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, Assault Craft Unit 4 and Beach Master Unit 2. The 26th MEU(SOC), based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., includes Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marines; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion 22.
U.S. trained teams of about 20 Marines from the MEU to ride commercial ships as a deterrent to Iranian harassment, USNI News reported last week.
To date, officials in the region have not said if the teams have been used.