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Iranians harass US Navy ships in Persian Gulf

USS Lewis B. Puller IRGCN encounter
IRGCN vessels approaching USS Lewis B. Puller. Photo: US Navy

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches a formation of US Navy vessels in the Northern Persian Gulf on April 15.

A total of eleven IRGCN vessels made repeated approaches on the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) while they were conducting joint integration operations with US Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

On the same date, a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35. The US deemed this interaction unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction that lasted approximately 42 minutes.

According to the US Navy, IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at “extremely close range and high speeds”, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the US ships and opened distance between them.

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area,” a navy release said.

The US Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March.