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US Navy fires warning shots at Iranian boats harassing sailors in the Persian Gulf

Shots fired
Jeff Schogol Avatar
The cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt is underway during an exercise in the Persian Gulf. Firebolt is supporting the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy)

A Navy patrol coastal ship fired warning shots at three Iranian armed speed boats that were harassing U.S. vessels on Monday in the northern Persian Gulf, defense officials have announced. Editor’s note: To view the video in this story, please turn off your ad blocker.

This is the second reported incident since April 2 in which vessels with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy have come dangerously close to American vessels. The Navy did not fire any warning shots earlier this month.

Around 8 p.m. on Monday, the USS Firebolt and the Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Baranof encountered the three Iranian fast boats while in international waters, according to 5th Fleet. The Iranian boats disregarded international safety rules meant to avoid collisions and came too close to the Firebolt and Baranof, according to a Department of Defense news release. At one point, the Iranians were only 68 yards from both vessels.

“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close-range maneuvers,” the news release says. “The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the U.S. vessels.”

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy has a history of buzzing U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels at high speeds. On April 2, an Iranian boat crossed the bow of the Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Monomoy and USCGC Wrangell, coming within 70 yards of both vessels, Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold first revealed on Monday.

“The U.S. is not an aggressor; our naval forces remain postured in a non-provocative manner that exemplifies professionalism, incentivizes adherence to international law and customs, and persuades others to emulate our actions. Our forces are trained, however, to conduct effective defensive measures when necessary.”

Encounters between U.S. ships and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have brought both nations closer to war. In April 2020, former President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered the Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian boats that harass U.S. vessels after Fox & Friends aired a story about a recent incident.

And in January 2008, a situation between Navy warships and five Iranian speed boats in the Strait of Hormuz nearly became a sea battle when the cruiser USS Port Royal received a radio message from an unknown sender: “You will explode in a few minutes.”Andrew Scutro and David Brown, then of Navy Times, reported shortly afterward that the message could have come from a man on a merchant ship with a reputation of heckling other vessels over the radio.

Featured image: The cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt underway in October 2011 during an exercise in the Persian Gulf. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter Wayman.)