U.S. carrier confronts two sets of fast boats in Strait of Hormuz

by WorldTribune Staff, March 23, 2017

A U.S. aircraft carrier on March 21 deployed helicopter gunships to track two sets of Iranian fast-attack vessels during a confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. Navy said.

Navy commanders told Reuters the USS George H.W. Bush confronted the Iranian boats after they approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait, Reuters reported.

Iranian fast-attack boats. /Getty Images/File

It was the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier entered the narrow waterway, where up to 30 percent of global oil exports pass annually, since President Donald Trump took office.

The latest in a string of incidents occurred as the USS George H.W. Bush was en route to the northern part of the Gulf to participate in U.S.-led air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

“What I don’t like about that is they (Iranian boats) were in the middle of international transit waters (while) we had a right to be there as we were exercising freedom of navigation on our way into the Arabian Gulf,” Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 2, was quoted by Reuters as having told journalists.

“They also had weapons uncovered as some of the cameras were able to tell. They had some of the weapons manned. We also have aerial data that they were arming all of these weapons,” Whitesell said.

The March 21 incident ended without a shot being fired, the U.S. officials told Reuters. There was no immediate comment from Iran.

Several recent incidents have ratcheted up tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran.

  • Earlier this month, Iranian military vessels had a close encounter with a U.S. surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz. The incident was described by American officials as an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” maneuver by the Iranians.
  • In January, a U.S. Navy ship fired warning shots at Iranian boats near the Strait of Hormuz, after five Iranian vessels approached the USS Mahan and two other American ships that were entering the strait.
  • In September, the Navy said that Iran had threatened two American maritime patrol aircraft flying over the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Also in September, a U.S. Navy patrol ship was forced to change course after a fast attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 91 meters of it in the central Persian Gulf.