U.S. Navy ship again swarmed in Gulf by Iran’s IRGCN, under orders to act ‘boldly’

by WorldTribune Staff, September 7, 2016

A group of Iranian fast-attack craft came within 100 yards of a U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship on Sept. 4, forcing the U.S. vessel to maneuver to avoid a collision, an American defense official said.

The latest in a string of incidents in the Persian Gulf saw seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) craft approach the USS Firebolt (PC-10) while it was operating in international waters in the central Gulf.

USS Firebolt
USS Firebolt

The IRGCN is under orders from the Iranian government to act “boldly and courageously” in the performance of its duties, a former defense official told USNI News.

Three of the IRGCN’s vessels came close to the Firebolt, “mirroring the ship’s course and speed at a distance of about 500 yards for about eight minutes before leaving,” the USNI report said. Another Iranian boat “then sped towards Firebolt and stopped directly in front of the ship, causing the Firebolt crew to maneuver to avoid a collision.”

The Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of the Firebolt, the defense official said.

“The Iranian’s unsafe maneuvers near a United States ship operating in accordance with international law while transiting in international waters created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation including additional defensive measures by Firebolt,” the official told USNI News.

The official said the crew of the Firebolt attempted radio contact three times “to understand the Iranians’ intentions,” but the Iranian crews never responded. The Iran craft’s crew-served weapons were uncovered and manned but untrained during the encounter, the official said.

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) called the interaction unsafe and unprofessional due to the lack of communication and harassment at close range, which increases the chance of collision, the defense official said.

“This type of incident would have led NAVCENT to recommend that the State Department deliver a diplomatic message of protest if this interaction had been with a country with which the United States had an official diplomatic relationship.”

The Sept. 4 incident follows Iran’s harassment of guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) on Aug. 23, as well as patrol coastal ships USS Tempest (PC-2) and USS Squall (PC-7) and destroyer USS Stout (DDG-55) on Aug. 24.